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Chabad keeps spirit shining with East Village menorah

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Let there be lights!

Jews of East Village, a Chabad-Lubavitch Orthodox group, held a public menorah lighting in Peter Cooper Park, just outside The Cooper Union, on Monday night, Hanukkah’s fifth night.

About 40 people attended the celebration, which was led by Rabbi Meir Lerman, who was joined by his wife, Tani.

In addition to the lights, there were mini latkes (potato pancakes), donuts, chocolate gelt (coins) and dreidels (spinning tops).

Rabbi Meir Lerman with his daughter Menucha. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Known as “The Festival of Lights,” the biblical holiday commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in the second century B.C. The Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes had taken over Israel and outlawed the practice of Judaism, forcing the people to worship Greek gods. But a small group of Jewish rebels, the Maccabees, drove out the Syrians and then rededicated the temple, which Antiochus had desecrated.

However, the Jews found only a small jar of holy oil for the temple’s lamp, or menorah — just enough for one day. Back then, it took eight days to manufacture oil pure enough to be deemed holy. Yet, miraculously, the one day’s supply of oil lasted eight days.

Dreidels. (Photo by The Village Sun)

The East Village menorah lighting was not political, in terms of the rabbi’s remarks. Also, unlike the previous week’s Christmas tree lighting in Washington Square Park, pro-Palestinian protesters did not show up calling for a ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas in response to the 10/7 terrorist massacre.

“I think the message is — Hanukkah came at the perfect time,” Lerman said. “I think the idea that people experience miracles, [like] Hanukkah, and we live by miracles. The message of light and warmth is something we strive for, and we live and we strive for everyone to experience it.”

There were donuts and latkes. (Photo by The Village Sun)

During Hanukkah, children enjoy spinning dreidels and eating chocolate gelt.

“That’s the beauty of it,” the rabbi added, “when you see children celebrating.”

Jews of East Village, which is a new Chabad house, chose the fifth of the holiday’s eight nights for the lighting ceremony because it was the date most people could make it.

Eva Heineman, right, invited her friend and neighbor Lisa Ramaci to the menorah lighting. The two women, who live at 534 E. 11th St., were what was known as homesteaders in 1980. Under a city program, they fixed up the rundown, vacant building, even putting in all-new plumbing, while simultaneously living there. Ramaci is a former East Village Democratic district leader and former longtime chairperson of the Community Board 3 State Liquor Authority Committee. Heineman is the election poll site supervisor at the Sirovich Center. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Hasidic Judaism, of which Chabad is one of the largest groups, started as a spiritual revival movement in Eastern Europe in the 18th century. One of its main goals is to teach Jews, whatever their background, about their faith.

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