MONTCLAIR, NJ - Nearly a hundred people gathered Sunday on South Park Street near the Bloomfield Avenue intersection to light the grand Menorah on the 8th night of Hanukkah.
Though the weather was cold and rainy, residents held up umbrellas and sang traditional songs while the Menorah was being lit.
Along with four other Rabbis in Montclair, a multi-faith assembly of clergy stood beside Rabbi Yaacov Leaf, of Chabad of Montclair, as he spoke of the recent local bias incidents and the attacks on Jewish people in the tri-state area.
In response to the destruction of the grand Menorah ice sculpture on Church Street, swastikas found on furniture at Montclair High School and recent attacks on Jewish people across the nation, Montclair clergy state that they had planned the last night gathering to display interfaith support and solidarity.
Leaf's wife, Ita, spoke exclusively to TAPinto, stating that the gathering was a united effort to shed light on the world.
She said, "In the face of all of this darkness, antisemitism and all of these incidents going on, we want to add more light and with adding more light, to dispel the darkness."
She continued, "Antisemites want us to cower and hide."
"It just feels so right to come out and still be proudly Jewish and to celebrate our heritage the way we should be allowed to, out in the open. The main thing is adding in light to dispel the darkness."
"This is just not for Jews, but everybody. It's a united event. Nobody should ever have to feel fear or hated in their country, home, synagogues, churches, places of worship or walking down the street," she concluded.
Prior to lighting the grand Menorah, Rabbi Leaf addressed the crowd saying, "This is such an incredible crowd. I don't think anyone cares about this weather because we are all here together, united as one."
Standing in solidarity with Rabbi Leaf were Rabbi Elliott Tepperman of Bnai Keshet, Rabbi David Greenstein of Congragation Shomrei Emunah, Rev. Ann Ralosky of First Congregational Church of Montclair, Rabbi Laurence W. Groffman of Temple Shalom of West Essex and Cedar Grove, Rabbi Marc Katz of Temple Ner Tamid, Rev. John Mennell of St. Luke's of Montclair, and Rabbi Boruch Klar (also Leaf's father-in-law) of Chabad of Essex County.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming out tonight and standing in solidarity with our fellow Jews. Each one of us is making a powerful statement...that we will not allow hate and divisiveness to win," he told the crowd.
Just days after the first night of Hanukkah lighting of the grand Menorah ice sculpture on Church Street, someone came along and vandalized the structure.
Police Chief Todd Conforti has publicly stated that it appeared to be a juvenile who committed the act. Though police are still investigating the incident, he said that preliminary investigations may indicate that it may not have been a targeted act, but an act of juvenile vandalism.
Nonetheless, this act has sparked renewed outrage, as it has come on the heels of two incidents where swastikas were found on desks at Montclair High School within the last two months.
"It is amazing that we can stand together in strength, aligned in support of our people. An attack on any Jew or any human being, for that matter, is an attack on all of us and the values that we stand for," Leaf stated.
He spoke of the significance of the eighth night of Hanukkah, as "a festive time for families to come together to celebrate the victory of light over darkness, of freedom over oppression." Leaf added that instead of celebrating, people are feeling fear and insecurity due to multiple incidents of attacks and crimes of bias targeting the Jewish community throughout the wake of Hanukkah, as well as the preceding months.
Leaf added, "What are we to make of all this? How can we put an end to this hate? It's raging like a wildfire."
He gave the congregants hope saying, "When confronted with darkness, our duty is to respond by increasing in light."
Leaf went further to teach about the significance of the number eight and said, "Whereas seven represents a number of completion, the natural order of the world, which was created in seven days. Eight signifies a radical shift from the natural order."
He added, "Just as those attacks constitute a radical manifestation of evil representing baseless hatred...so to, our response must be to come together for a radical approach of...love and kindness. Random acts of bestowing benevolence and compassion to others."
"It all starts right here...if each one of us could take the message of Hanukkah to our families, to our communities, one-by-one, we will light up this world."