Just a few yards up River Street, across from Hudson Taco and Pizza Shop, stands a white, metal menorah with nine glass bulbs waiting to be lit far into the night. The eve of Sunday, November 28 marks the first night of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.
In the Jewish tradition, Hanukkah is a festival celebrated in remembrance of the bravery of Jewish soldiers who drove their enemies out of Jerusalem and the miracle that took place with a single jug of oil.
The article ‘History: The Hanukkah Story’ from the ReformJudaism.org website tells the story of this holiday known as the Festival of Lights. It’s origins originate from the first and second book of Maccabees.
The article continues stating that in 168 B.C.E., the Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes, sent his soldiers to Jerusalem. During his claim on Jerusalem, his soldiers desecrated the Temple and renamed it after the Greek god Zeus. It was during that time that a Jewish resistance, which would become known as the Maccabees, rose up against the king and drove the Syrians out. As the Jewish people made their way back to Jerusalem and the Temple, the people reclaimed it and relit a light known as the ner tamid or “Eternal light” which is burned at all times in synagogues. With the jug, it only had oil for one day and the search began for more oil. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days and thus the celebration of Hanukkah resulted.
“When we’re lighting the lights, those menorah lights that we light every single night of Hanukkah, we listen to the tale that the candles tell,” Rabbi Shmuel Serebryanski of Chabad of Eastern Orange County said. “What is the message of the candles? The message of the candles is even in a world which is dark, be a little light, shine that light. When you shine that light you can make a world of a difference.”
Members of the Newburgh community, the rabbi’s family and other friends joined at the menorah to light the first candle of Hanukkah. When celebrating Hanukkah, you light a total of eight candles, yet in the middle of the menorah stands a candle known as the shammash. According to Chabad.org, the article ‘The Shammash: Why the Menorah Has a 9th Candle’, the shammash in the celebration of Hanukkah is used to light the other candles as the days pass.
The rabbi also announced that a new chabad space will be opening in several months on Liberty Street. “A little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness,” Rivka Serebryanski, the rabbi’s wife said. In today’s world, Rabbi Serebryanski says that we are living the Hanukkah story today and that in these turbulent times, we shall prevail. “If you’re lighting your own Hanukkah menorah at home, post it on your Facebook page, post it on your Instagram, put it out there, shine the light, spread it to the world, let everyone know about the miracles and be that candle, be that spark of light to make your surroundings bright,” Serebryanski said. For the past 12 years, Chabad of Eastern Orange County has been lighting the menorah here in Newburgh. “If you have a menorah, make sure to light it tonight,” Serebryanski said
The celebration of Hanukkah continues with the lighting of the remaining candles each night. The festival ends on Dec. 6.