MONROE – The Chabad of Monroe has been holding a public menorah celebration in Monroe for 18 years, but weeks after the horrific antisemitic shooting in Jersey City, it will be celebrated by a record number of Jewish participants eager to stand together and face down growing anti-Semitism throughout the United States and the world, Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky said.
The recent rise in hate speech and hate crimes nationwide, including deadly shootings in Pittsburgh; Poway, California; and most recently in Jersey City, has organizers expecting the largest turnout ever to take a stand against hate in a show of Jewish pride and unity.
“Hanukkah is the celebration of light over darkness,” Zaklikovsky, who directs the Chabad Jewish Center, said in a prepared statement. “The darkness that we, as a nation, have been experiencing must be fought with light and goodness, and we are putting together our biggest program ever to show that we will not be intimidated by those who wish to scare us.”
The event will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 22 at State Park, 1600 Perrineville Road, corner Prospect Plains Road, Monroe, with performances by Cantor Nathaniel Carmen of Detroit, and programs for children including Dreidel-man, arts and crafts, and doughnuts. The highlight – the lighting of NJ’s largest menorah, which is an exact replica of the National Menorah in Washington, D.C. at the White House – will follow with the participation of Monroe Mayor Gerald Tamburro.
Barbara Goldberg is a longtime resident in the community who is planning to attend the public celebration for the first time despite her initial discomfort with expressing her Jewish identity so publicly and openly, according to the statement.
“They want us to be afraid—to fear proudly proclaiming our Jewish identity,” she said. “I usually just light the menorah at home, but with all the anti-Semitism we are witnessing around us, I’m also going to join the public menorah lighting because I think this is the most effective thing we can do to fight evil. We need to be taking it head on.”
Since its inauguration in 2002, the 32-foot-tall menorah has become an iconic staple of central Jersey holiday scene, with the weeklong festival drawing crowds every night to celebrate with dignitaries, artists and members of the city’s wider population.
For more information, visit www.ChabadMonroe.org or call 732-656-1616.