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Spreading the light for the holidays

December 1, 2018 12:42 am

There are no easy answers that will explain the recent spree of anti-semitism in the United States, a wave that peaked with the massacre at a suburban Pittsburgh synagogue, but the Jewish communities of the Twin Counties are demonstrating how observing traditions might triumph over hate.

The first night of Hanukkah begins Sunday at sundown. The local celebrations include special services.

Temple Israel in Catskill will host a service at 6 p.m. Sunday with a vegetarian potluck supper and a community candle-lighting ceremony, stressing the open, egalitarian spirit of this year’s observance.

“This is a difficult time in the world,” Temple Israel Rabbi Zoe Zak said Thursday. “Hanukkah is an opportunity to spread the light in a very conscious way and share it with as many people as possible.”

Congregation Anshe Emeth in Greenport will begin the observance with a gathering at Seventh Street Park in Hudson with the lighting of the community menorah. Candles will be lighted each night of the eight-day Hanukkah observance except for Wednesday, when the community Hanukkah party will be held.

In the wake of the recent rise of anti-semitic activity, however, the mood of celebration will be tempered by a need for security.

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office and Catskill Village Police Department will provide a subtle, under-the-radar security presence at Temple Israel. Anshe Emeth has taken security measures including locking doors, reminding congregants of the locations of exits and the presence of a state trooper.

Some hope exists this holiday season. Despite the hate crimes and need for security, the Jewish communities are opening their doors to other faiths in a demonstration of peace and harmony. We hope all communities show an ability to build on this and remove the spectres of intolerance and prejudice from what should be a time of joy.