MONROE – The community of the Chabad of Monroe came together to spread light during what has been “an extremely difficult year, a year of pain, challenges and hardships” due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“This is why when a holiday like Hanukkah comes we need to jump on the opportunity to spread light, to come together even though socially distanced or watching through media technology and demonstrate the ability to make light around us,” Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky said during a menorah lighting on Dec. 10.
The Chabad of Monroe, led by Zaklikovsky, has been hosting the public menorah celebration in Monroe for 19 years with a 32-foot tall menorah, which is a replica of the National Menorah lit across the street from the White House in Washington D.C.
The rabbi had to use a forklift to light the menorah as a small crowd gathered on the first day of the Hanukkah Festival of Lights celebration at State Park on Perrineville Road, at the corner of Prospect Plains Road in Monroe.
“This year is not the regular year, so many of us that normally would be here are not here this year because of the circumstances,” he said. “It’s important to be here, celebrate and recognize, bring light to the world around us and diminish some of the darkness, some of the pain the world is experiencing.”
During the ceremony, the community paid tribute to the many heroes – essential workers, first responders, healthcare providers – who put themselves in harms way every single day in order to save and help heal those who need help.
“Who would have thought during last year’s Hanukkah, this year there would be so much more loss, pain and darkness than we had last year,” Zaklikovsky said. “It’s incumbent upon us to say thank you to those in our country and many throughout the world who had the forefront during the pandemic to help as many people as they could. The story of our country is a story of Hanukkah. The story of the essential workers is also the story of Hanukkah, recognizing what is important is not might, but what’s right. The truth prevails over strength, over tyranny, all forms of evil … with truth, sincerity [and] coming together as people, there is nothing we cannot possibly overcome.”
David Rothman, chair of the Monroe Township Planning Board and a former councilman, read a proclamation in celebration of Hanukkah on behalf of Mayor Gerald Tamburro.
The celebration included musical performances and programs for children including dancing with Dreidel-man and the Maccabees. The crowd also enjoyed hot apple cider, cocoa and doughnuts.
In commemoration, Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting an eight-branched candelabrum known as a menorah. The celebration began on Dec. 10 and concludes on the evening of Dec. 18.
Since its inauguration in 2002, the 32-foot tall menorah in Monroe has become an iconic staple of central Jersey holiday scene.
For more information, visit www.ChabadMonroe.org or call 732-656-1616.