“It’s really nice to be a part of the Boston community and the Jewish community that are all dating, especially during the pandemic when it’s so hard to get a group together and celebrate,” Braun said.
On Hanukkah, the number of confirmed COVID cases in Massachusetts increased: 5,369 new cases on the first night. The Boston Common 2020 menorah lighting ceremony has always taken place, but with a smaller crowd and live streaming for people watching at home.
This year was more festive. A few dozen people gathered at the Brewer’s Fountain, with dignitaries and families coming to watch passers-by unfamiliar with the party, casually stopping to ask what the gathering was for. Members of Jewish bluegrass group Kol Kahol, Hebrew for Blue Voice, performed Hanukkah songs for the crowd.
“Millions of Jews right now, tonight around the world, light the same candles in the same structure in their homes and in their communities,” said Rabbi Marc Baker, president and CEO of Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
Rabbi Yosef Zaklos of downtown Boston’s Chabad spoke of spreading light and joy from candle to candle.
“There is a vibe,” Zaklos said. “People are happy to be able to be outside without a mask, in a safe space. There is certainly uncertainty. We all understand this. But I think when we are grounded in kindness and positivity it allows us to overcome that uncertainty in a much calmer and more serene way.
Although public Hanukkah celebrations date back a few thousand years, Jews generally celebrate at home. Families hold small celebrations for eight nights with lit candles, prayers, songs, and fried foods – potato latkes and jelly-filled sufganiyot.
Members of Chabad, a Hasidic Orthodox Jew, have been organizing large-scale menorah lights since the 1970s as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the holiday and bring some happiness and hope to public spaces .
“Judaism teaches us that the best way to celebrate Chanukah is contagious,” Zaklos said. “You light a candle first, you add light, and you can’t help but add another candle the next night. In addition, you illuminate the world around you. It’s contagious because when you’re bright, those around you take on positivity as well. “
Zaklos greeted new Boston Mayor Michelle Wu with “a big mazal tov, as they say”, to congratulate her. She did shamash honors with Governor Charlie Baker as did her three elected predecessors, holding a torch on the elevator next to Zaklos, Braun and Weiss.
“Despite the many forces that separate us, despite our best efforts to remain isolated, we need each other,” Wu told the crowd. “And we are showing in this city, and in every action we take, that we can follow these same lessons of this holiday season: of courage and perseverance triumph, and seeing that the light shines.”
Baker acknowledged that these times are still difficult for many people, but hailed the light of such ceremonies.
“In some ways, especially at times like these, I think it’s important for all of us to remind ourselves that every day – somewhere, somewhere – there are little miracles that happen,” said Baker. “They involve acts of grace, kindness and generosity. And they are, in fact, the light that pushes back the darkness, what this menorah represents these eight days of light. “
You can reach Gal Tziperman Lotan at [email protected] or 617-929-2043.