On Sunday, December 29, Rabbi Levi Shem Tov once again invited the Riverdale community to the Memorial Bell Tower in the center of Riverdale for the lighting of the giant public menorah for the final night of Chanukah 5780. On that cold, rainy December night, Rabbi Shem Tov rose above the crowd in a cherry picker to light all eight candles.
Rabbi Dan Margulies of the Riverdale Minyan commented, “On the last night of Chanukah, we have the most light. This is an opportunity we have every day throughout the week of Chanukah. Everything is increasing; the way we light the menorah is maalin ba’kodesh. Everything that is holy and everything that is good in the world should always be increasing, growing and sharing with more and more people.”
Rabbi Margulies noted, “Tragically, there was an attack last night and multiple attacks on Jewish people throughout the New York area over the week of Chanukah. Our response is as Rabbi Shem Tov called on us to do our best to share our mitzvot, share our Torah, share the love we have for each other and for our whole community, as our response to that hatred. I think this is an incredible opportunity for us to take the light of Chanukah and the message of Chanukah, and to share it. Starting tomorrow night, when we don’t have the candles any more to bring the light of Chanukah into the rest of the year, to bring all those positive ideas and messages with us.”
Rabbi Shem Tov added, “They say joy breaks all barriers. Right now, we feel close and have these barriers around us. Do you know what we need? We need some more simcha.” The attendees then spontaneously broke out in song and dance. Included in the dancing were the local police officers from the NYPD 50th precinct.
Riverdale resident Adiva Eliach attended the event with two of her children, third grader Mikayla and kindergartener Nate. “Every year, my kids love to watch the ‘big menorah’ being lit, and this year we just weren’t able to make it until the last night. But, I also did feel extra strongly about showing my kids the public display of lighting the menorah ‘in light of’ the heart wrenching anti-Semitic hate crimes that had transpired.”
Eliach added, “Three out of my four grandparents were Holocaust survivors, all of whom have passed away within the past three years. I feel ever so strongly the importance of teaching my children to be proud of our Judaism and continuing our ancestral legacy.”
By Judy Berger