Nottingham’s Old Market Square hosted its first ever celebration of Chanukah (Hanukkah) this week with over two hundred people witnessing the lighting of the nine-foot Menorah.
“The Menorah represents a message of hope and freedom,” explained Rabbi Mendy Lent, of local charity Chabad of Nottingham, organisers of the event.
“It was wonderful to see an incredible crowd attending this historic event in front of Nottingham’s Council House. Chanukah is a wonderful celebration for Jewish people, with a universal message that resonates with all mankind. That message is that acts of goodness, represented by the light, can drive out the darkness.”
The Chanukah holiday is the Jewish festival of lights and marks the victory – some 2200 years ago, of a tiny untrained collective of Jews called the Maccabees over the powerful Seleucid army who were bent on their destruction.
Following their miraculous victory and during the cleaning up of their temple in Jerusalem, the group wished to re-light the Menorah only to find that there was only one days’ worth of oil left. With the need to drive out the darkness, the group kindled the lamps immediately rather than wait for new supplies.
It was then, said Rabbi Mendy Lent, that the miracle happened. “The oil lasted for all eight days; long enough for more oil to arrive and meaning that the flame could be kept alive, banishing the negativity and darkness. Since then, Jewish people have commemorated the festival of lights, lighting 8 candles, starting with one and increasing each night.
“It is a message that is universal,” he said, “one of freedom from oppression and the right of all to freely practice their religion.”
Special guest at the event was the Sheriff of Nottingham, Councillor Catherine Arnold, who was invited to light the central candle. She said, “I am wholly behind this event because the Menorah is a symbol of hope.
“It has been an honour to be here and means a lot to me personally, -but also as a Councillor and as Sheriff because it is really important that we embrace everybody and make them feel they are part of Nottingham.
I really hope that this happens every year, and that by placing the Menorah fairly and squarely in the marketplace, that we are sending out a positive message against all of the negativity that is around today. We have to stand up to that with a positive outlook, we have to link arms and be proud and achieve it through it through peaceful means.”
During the event, traditional doughnuts and potato latkes were handed out to the crowds and passing shoppers.
Annie Wechsler attended the event and says that she felt it was an important landmark for the community. “I arrived in Nottingham one month ago and wanted to go to community events, and meet people in the Jewish community, and this was a nice opportunity to do that. I come from Chile and we have a similar event in our hometown and have done it for about 20 years now. It’s a good way to show our traditions, not only to our own community but to all other communities too.”
Rabbi Mendy Lent said that he was thrilled that the event was such a success. “Tonight was a real historic moment in the 800-year history of Nottingham Jewry. People from across the Jewish community came out to show their Jewish pride, and members of the public have really enjoyed participating too. We are so grateful to the City Council for ensuring this event could happen, and we can’t wait for bigger and better next year!”