BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Berkeley Heights Menorah Lighting celebration was moved inside Sunday night due to the cold rainy forecast -- but the bright lights that illuminated the menorah inside brought warmth and light to the group who had gathered at the recreation center to celebrate the eighth and last night of Chanukah.
For the fourth year in a row, the Berkeley Heights community gathered together to celebrate the Festival of Lights during the annual Chanukah celebration.
Organized by Donna and Yoram Aflalo, Herman Maftes and Tammy Sanders, the event on Dec. 29 brought a crowd to the community center to celebrate the Jewish holiday with traditional food, music, and a ceremonial menorah lighting led by Rabbi Avrohom Blesofsky.
Also in attendance were Council President Alvaro Medeiros, Councilmembers Manny Couto, Jeanne Kingsley, Susan Poage and Stephen Yellin. Police Chief John DiPasquale and several members of the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad were also present.
The menorah lighting ceremony has been held outdoors at Peppertown Park during its first three years, but the rain that night forced the celebration to move indoors to the recreation center.
The lighting of the menorah symbolically serves as a reminder to the Jewish people that illumination from darkness begins from within. Rabbi Avrohom Blesofsky pointed out the menorah they were lighting is fueled by oil. "The Miracle of Chanukah happened with a small jug of pure oil," he said. "They choose only to kindle the fire with pure oil."
"We look around us -- there are a lot of dark spots. Each of us has a small jug of oil. If we ignite it, it has the potential to shine beyond anything we possibly can imagine. When we look at the darkness in the world -- I don’t have solutions for everything, but the one thing I know, what we can do is increase the positive things we can do. There’s potential. Ignite the oil in the darkest places, darkest thoughts of humanity."
Herman Maftes asked the council members to provide a few words of vigilance for the holiday. Councilwoman Poage told the crowd that she had spent the past few days visiting the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. The exhibit is dedicated to the history of Auschwitz and its role in the Holocaust. She told the crowd to please go and see the exhibit. After the recent Monsey, NY antisemitism stabbing at a Chanukah party, she said these madmen aren't alone -- "if you see something, stand up and say something."
Maftes thanked the Berkeley Heights Police Department for their presence each and every year.
Rabbi Blesofsky led the group in singing a few folklore songs like "Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel" and "Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah." -- DJ Maftes took over and continued the festivities and fun.
In addition to reflecting on the meaning of Chanukah, guests passed around Chanukah Gelt (chocolate coins) and enjoyed plenty of Jewish food like latkes donated by Goodman's Deli and Pastrami House. Dunkin Donuts and Taylor Rental also generously contributed to the event.