A menorah is lit to celebrate the Festival of Light

Stars sparkled brightly in the sky overhead, as approximately 20 people gathered at Front Street Park Wednesday, Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. to light a menorah, created by Jason Knott.

“Hanukkah is eight days, and is a minor holiday, meaning we don’t have a lot of religious restrictions,” Knott explained when asked about the meaning of the celebration. “It is the festival of light..it’s generally said, or at least it’s my perception, that it is the job of the Jewish people to bring light into the world. This holiday describes the rebellion against forced conversion.”

Hanukkah lasts for eight days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. This year it began on Dec. 7 and lasted through the 15. There are eight days to remember when, while the Jewish people rebelled against forced conversion, at one point only had enough oil for one day. A miracle occurred, and that one day of oil lasted for eight.

An annual lighting of a menorah has been held for the last five years, according to Knott. One year nearly 40 people attended. This year was a smaller, quieter year.

“The Jewish community is pretty quiet,” Knott said. Since Hamas attacked Gaza on Oct. 7, which has been reported as the worst attack against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, and Israel’s retaliation, there has been a spike in Anti-Semitism, locally, Knott continued. Someone wrote Jew on his car, for example. The group chatted amongst themselves, eating an array of what Knott called “Jewish junk food,” including Sufganiyah, or jelly donuts. For anyone inclined to play Dreidel, there were a few available as well.

“Be careful if you play with my son, because he will take all of your chocolate coins, I guarantee you,” Knott teased.

The event was open to the public. Some attendees stated they came from families that were both Christian and Jewish, had a Menorah and a Christmas tree and celebrated a blending of both cultures. One couple said they were Christian, but after seeing a negative comment posted below the invitation on Facebook felt the need to make an appearance as a show of support.

A few others shared memories of childhood Hanukkah’s with the Journal.

“I’m from Duluth Minnesota, and we are big hockey fans,” one islander said. “So during Hanukkah, we would light the menorah, but on some nights we would go to a hockey game. But, with the menorah, you are supposed to let the candles burn out on their own, not put them out. So one of my favorite memories is that after dinner, when we would go to a game, my mom would put the menorah [still burning] in the kitchen sink.”

Another attendee shared that they grew up in a very catholic neighborhood on Captial Hill. “We were the only Jews in the area. My parents were both holocaust survivors, so it was very important to have a menorah in the window and just say who we are, so that was powerful growing up, a really powerful image for me.”

Before the menorah was lit, Knotts addressed the crowd, “So here we are standing at a time where there is darkness around us. We are at night, and we are able to come here and celebrate the light. We need to be thankful that we have the darkness so that we can see the light. And we are now going to enjoy the lighting tonight. Happy Hanukkah.”