MONTVILLE, NJ - Menachem Toren, Pine Brook Jewish Center’s cantor, led the Montville Township Hanukkah celebration and the lighting of the menorah on Sunday on the first night of Hanukkah in front of the municipal building.

Approximately fifty people gathered near the menorah, which can be seen from Changebridge Road, as Cantor Toren told the Hanukkah story. He explained the Maccabean revolt against King Antiochus and his oppressive laws. He said that once the victorious Maccabees reached the Temple, they could only find one jug of oil with the high priest’s seal intact. The oil in the jug was only enough to last one day, and that is when a great miracle occurred, and the light lasted for eight days.

This miracle of oil forms the basis for the consumption of fried foods during this holiday as seen at the hospitality table that was full of fried doughnuts and hot beverages. 

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With the lighting of the menorah, there was the chanting of the traditional Hebrew blessing which translates as: We praise you Eternal One, Who makes our lives special with the lighting of the Hanukkah lights. We praise you Eternal One, Who has performed miracles for our ancestors in ancient times and in our time. We praise you Eternal One, Who has kept us in life and sustained us in health to reach this joyous occasion.

After the blessing, traditional songs were sung, and some not so traditional, as the cantor sang some new versions of I Have a Little Dreidel. Mayor Richard Conklin spoke, and then it was time to eat and celebrate together.

According to the Hanukkah story, a key part of the Maccabean struggle was uniting a Jewish community, some of whom had lost their will to continue living proudly as Jews. At this menorah lighting ceremony, many said that the event is a wonderful way to build and unite community as the Maccabees tried to do.

Committeeman Matthew Kayne said that he has been coming to the town hall in Montville for the lighting of the menorah for many years, and “each year the celebration gets better and better.”

Rabbi Yossi Spalter, from Chabad of Montville Township, also was at the ceremony saying it is a wonderful celebration. 

Judy Gothelf, at teacher at Lazar Middle School and an organizer of the school’s Living Lessons program, said that she has been coming to the event for many years, and that Cantor Toren is an inspiration and has a “beautiful knack of bringing people together, along with his great sense of humor.”

Beverly and Ilysa Berkowitz, members of the Pine Brook Jewish Center, feel the same way. 

Also enjoying the event were Margaret Sanders and Hadas Toren, Cantor Toren’s wife. 

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