By Geri Gibbons, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — The Jewish Community Center filled with the energy and color of Hanukkah on Sunday, as the members of the area’s Jewish community lit the second candle of the menorah.
Rabbi Zvi Perlman said the holiday, which lasts for eight days, symbolized light.
“And where there is light,” he said, “there is peace and harmony.”
Part of the reason for the energy of the event, he said, was participation by young men attending Bais Menachem Youth Development Program.
The school, he said, provided opportunity for students to direct their enthusiasm to their faith.
About 25 young men did just that as they participated in a hasidic dance in a circle outside the center following the lighting of the outdoor menorah.
Shlomo Stark, who volunteers at the school, said it was a place for diversity and finding purpose.
“We are all following different goals,” he said. “Some of us make videos, some of us love music, some of us want to be rabbis. We’re learning in a real-life environment.”
And although their Jewish beliefs differ from one person to the next, he said, they all share a passion for their faith.
Stark said Hanukkah symbolizes a time when enemies of the Jews wanted to take God out of Judaism.
The Jews were successful, he said, in overcoming those enemies, in bringing light.
Stark was referring to the victory of the Jewish Maccabees over their military enemies and, to celebrate the victory, lit an oil lamp which, with only enough oil to keep its flame for one day, burned for eight days and nights.
A miracle now celebrated during Hanukkah.
Looking back at the history of Europe and the Middle East, Executive Director Stuart Forman said the celebration of a holiday in which Jews go out into the community was not always possible. He said that America has provided the Jewish community with that opportunity.
Forman also looked back to 1948, when Israel again became a nation, as an indication of the resurgence of Judaism around the world.
The United States, he said, has supported its Jewish population from the beginning.
“George Washington wrote a letter to Hebrew Congregation at Newport (Rhode Island) assuring them that there would be no bigotry in our nation,” he said, “as long as they would conduct themselves as good citizens.
In addition to the outdoor activity and the lighting of the large menorah in front of the building, attendees made their way into the building, with girls lighting colorful candles on smaller menorahs.
At the conclusion of the events at the center, attendees went out into the community to nursing homes, hospitals and other forums to light menorahs, bringing the holiday to those Jews who were not physically able to join in the festivities at congregational sites.
Students of the school also participated in the lighting of the menorah on Public Square on Saturday evening, the first night of Hanukkah.