WESTFIELD, NJ – The Union County Torah Center said farewell to Mayor Andy Skibitsky during its annual menorah lighting ceremony on Wednesday evening at the North Avenue Train Station.
According to Rabbi Levi Block, Skibitsky (Westfield’s longest-serving mayor) has attended the menorah lighting every year he was in office. To honor his commitment, Block led the crowd in a rendition of “Siman Tov U’ Mazal Tov,” a Hebrew song symbolizing good sign and good luck.
“On behalf of the entire council, I want to say Happy Hanukkah,” Skibitsky said. “Thank you for the invitation all these years. I’ve learned a lot from Rabbi Block over the years.”
Skibitsky also expressed a wish for religious freedom this season.
“It was over 2,100 years ago when the Maccabees reclaimed the holy Temple in Jerusalem,” Skibitsky said to the audience. “Since that time, every year families and communities get together to light the menorahs and celebrate faith in God and the freedoms God’s given us. Sadly, even today, religious persecution goes on and on. It’s my prayer that the light from the menorah this season brings some people out of persecution so they can live their lives in religious freedom.”
After his remarks, Skibitsky climbed a ladder to light the shamash, the “worker” candle, in the middle of the tall menorah. The other two candles were lit by Issac Zaksenberg, a close friend of Block’s. Before he lit the candles, the crowd recited the blessings together.
“The lighting of the menorah is to publicize the miracles that took place during the story of Hanukkah,” Block said. “One was the oil that lasted eight days. Another was a military miracle, when a small Jewish army went against a huge Syrian army. So we light the menorah in public places to publicize this miracle. Every miracle that God performs shows that he created the world, he’s involved in the world and he can mix in whenever he needs too. It reminds us that God’s always there and to never lose hope.”
Despite frigid weather, about 40 people observed the lighting and enjoyed doughnuts and chocolate coins. As the ceremony drew to a close, they danced the Hora together.
“It’s very important for us to share our faith and share the light,” Westfield resident Annie Ashkenazi said. “It’s a family thing. I have four layers on to be here tonight.”