Menorah Lighting Promotes Solidarity


The Lobster trap Hannukkiah, lit on the first night of Hanukkah, 2018.

The city of Gloucester came together last Tuesday to celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah at the Temple Ahavat Achim, lighting the nation’s only lobster trap hanukkiah, or menorah.

The ceremony was open to the public so as to involve the Gloucester community in the celebration. Members of Gloucester’s Jewish community feel that in the current political climate, it is important to create unity. Rabbi Steven Lewis expressed this idea in his speech. “This is a time when we need light in the darkness,” said Lewis, “and Hanukkah is the festival of light.”

Gloucester’s Jewish community was shaken by the shooting in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, bringing, bringing Rabbi Lewis to make the decision to publicize the Hanukkah festivities.“In the Talbut which is written 300 to 500 BCE in modern Iraq, it said that you should put your Hanukkiah in the window, but in a time of danger, you can put in the house. The question is, is this a time of danger?”

After the anti-Semitic violence, there were vigils all across the nation, including at the Temple Ahavat Achim. “We sent out an invitation to the Cape Ann Clergy Association,” said Rabbi Lewis. “We have room for two hundred eighty, and we had four hundred fifty people RSVP for that event. This was a bigger event because of that, the memory of that, and it changes it because people are scared. There’s some fear. People are aware of their vulnerability.”

The Associated Clergy of Cape Ann is an organization that strives to create solidarity between religious groups. “A lot of the churches want to give people a venue to stand together for the values of equality, love, and fairness,” said Rabbi Lewis. “That kind of religious stuff.”

Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken attended the event and stressed the importance of supporting the Jewish community. “To me, it’s a celebration of people,” said Theken. “Especially when people are targeting your religion, I want to learn.”

Rabbi Lewis also wants to make the Jewish faith more publicly visible during this season.“It really works on the challenge of Jewish identity at this time of year, the challenge of the visual landscape of this time of year,” said Rabbi Lewis, “There are Christmas lights, and all the stores have the Christmas music on inside. If you’re a kid, it’s hitting you over the head that it’s this really special thing that you’re is missing out on. It’s the classic challenge for parents and kids.”

Following the lighting of the menorah at 5:45 PM, latkes and applesauce were offered. Anyone who attended the event was welcome to join the congregation for this meal. Jenai Cohen, a Manchester By the Sea resident, believes in the benefits of sharing food. “Food connects people no matter the religion,” said Cohen. “It won’t feel so strange and different.”

Edgar Founderay, an attendee of the event said “I like to participate in the Jewish community in Cape Ann. Lighting the candles and saying prayers reminds of the miracles that have happened in past times of darkness.”

Gloucester High School student Cameron Dempsey is an active member in the synagogue and thinks that being open about faith is important. “It really opens up people to come down and see that we are really not all that different from one another,” Dempsey said of the event. “It shows how far we’ve come since the days of persecution. It means a lot, and I think it’s what our country needs right now”