On Tuesday evening, December 12, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, Citywide Council President Michael Farina and West Bay Chabad Rabbi Yossi Laufer welcomed Cranston families to join in the lighting of the menorah and the start of the week of the Chanukah festival.
Mayor Fung has been lighting the menorah “religiously” for the past eight years. The foyer of City Hall is decorated with dreidels, menorahs and all the other traditional symbols of Chanukah.
The story of Chanukah tells the tale of how a small group of warriors triumphed over oppression and tyranny. It marks the victory of the Jews over the Greek Empire and the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. When the Maccabees re-entered the Temple, they miraculously found one small jar of pure olive oil to light the Menorah, which burned eight days instead of the standard one. To signify this miracle, candles are lit each evening of Chanukah with one candle being added each night for eight nights.
Rabbi Laufer invited the two dozen guests to gather with him and Mayor Fung around the menorah and spoke about the state of our times.
"This is a scary and difficult time for our world, if you listen to the news. It is full of doom and gloom, the world has gone dark and crazy, even," he said.
He did offer a few ways to help with the darkness.
"Inside every human being there is a candle, it is their soul, that lights a spark that God has put inside them. Our job is to look inside ourselves and see that people are kind, caring, beautiful. We need to look for their candles," he said.
Laufer said light is powerful.
"Light will always persevere over darkness. Freedom always over oppression. Just because darkness overwhelms us, all we need is one candle to chase it away. Be the candle," he said.
Mayor Fung welcomed everyone to City Hall.
"We come together as a community, we all aspire to the sense of community, sense of self and all with a sense of pride," he said.
Cranston resident Steve Sirota read a special poem he had written for his grandchildren to help them understand the story of Chanukah.
Rabbi Laufer led the crowd in the traditional blessings over the candles, followed by several Chanukah songs, and even convinced Mayor Fung and Councilman Farina to join in the dancing of the Hora.
Cranston resident, Ruth Brennan was impressed with the program.
"There is a great sense of community here. All Jews from any denomination can come, any Cranston resident can come. I hope next year there are even more people here," she said.
Following the dancing, the crowd was treated to homemade Chanukah treats such as potato latkes and cookies made by Shoshana Laufer and her children.