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North Adams Menorah Symbol of Perseverance, Hope
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
04:53PM / Friday, December 08, 2023
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Drew Zuckerman reads at the lighting of the menorah at City Hall on Thursday night with his mother, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat.

The menorah seen from outside City Hall.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The first "candle" on the city's menorah was lighted on Thursday night marking the beginning of the eight nights of Hanukkah. 
The "Festival of Lights" marks the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. There was enough oil to light the menorah for one day but it miraculously lasted eight. 
The holiday "celebrates light in the darkness, the persistence of hope, and the persistence of us," said Rabbi Rachel Barenblat of Congregation Beth Israel, who had arrived at City Hall after attending the menorah lighting in Williamstown.
"This means a lot to all of us in the community to have this happen here and this is a tradition we can count on every year," she said to the dozen or attendees. 
There are nine candles on a menorah, including one to light the others. Each night during Hanukkah, one candle is lit.
Barenblat's son Drew Zuckerman has been lighting the first candle since the city began marking the holiday in 2018 with the installment of a menorah in front of the Christmas tree in Dr. Rosenthal Square. 
Now 14, he pushed the button that times the new electric menorah to turn on one more bulb each night. 
He and his mother reflected on the traumas the Jewish people have persevered through over the last two millennia. 
"Two thousand, two hundred years ago an invading empire desecrated our Temple in Jerusalem and made the practice of Judaism illegal. We drove them out and rededicated our holy place. The commemoration of that rededication became Hanukkah. The Greco-Syrians did not destroy us," Zuckerman said. 
Barenblat continued that "a few hundred years later, the Roman empire conquered Jerusalem and destroyed our holy place. We re-envisioned our traditions to keep them alive in a post-Temple era. We renewed Judaism and carried it with us all over the world. The Romans did not destroy us."                 
Then the Crusades decimated Jewish communities across Europe, and Jews were expelled from England in 1290 and Spain in 1492. But the Crusaders and the "whims of those monarchs" did not destroy them, said Barenblat.
"Then one of the most pressing events to this day, in the 20th century, the Nazis attempted to exterminate Jews and Judaism," said Zuckerman. "But as you can see here, the Nazis did not destroy us."
The rabbi said the lighting of a menorah in the window proclaims that hatred will not destroy them, that the light of hope and their tradition still shines. 
"These Hanukkah lights are a reminder of our persistence. We stand up today against anti-Semitism — and also Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia, and all forms of hatred or bigotry," she said. 
"These Hanukkah lights are a reminder to keep persisting, to stand up for our neighbors as ourselves. May the light we find in these Hanukkah candles keep shining throughout the years to come."
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