Story by Shelley R. Clapper
Despite the cold and damp weather, there was an impressive gathering of enthusiastic participants assembled in front of the Menorah at Lewis Park on Main St. in Warwick on Tues., Dec. 12. All had gathered to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah. Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard was present along with local residents and visitors, some from as far away as Chicago. For the 21st year in a row, Moshe Schwartzberg, the owner of Forever Jewelers and Wolfies Restaurant in the Village of Warwick, hosted the event.
The Story of Hanukkah
Schwartzberg opened the ceremony with the retelling of the story of Hanukkah and the Jewish revolt against the tyrannous rule of the Syrians, under Greek rule, over 2,000 years ago. Antiochus, the Syrian king, ordered all the Jews to stop observing Jewish customs and laws and to start worshiping the Greek gods.
The Syrians desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem, the holiest place of the Jewish people, by setting up Greek idols and sacrificing pigs. Mattathias of Modi’in led a revolt against the Syrians with his five sons. After three long years they finally drove Antiochus’ army out of Jerusalem. The Jews destroyed the Greek idols, cleansed the Temple and relit the Menorah – its candelabrum with seven branches.
“It would seem that the oil that they found would rekindle the Menorah for maybe one day, but lo and behold it was seven or eight days,” said Schwartzberg.
The fighters, known as the Maccabees, rededicated the Temple. The Hebrew word for “dedication” is Hanukkah, which is how the holiday got its name.
“At this time of the year we eat doughnuts and lakes and anything to do with the frying of the oil. Tonight when we give you the latkes if it is a little bit too oily, don’t worry about it,” said Schwartzberg to the amusement of the crowd.
Following the lighting of the first candle for the first night of Hanukkah, the crowd walked to Forever Jewelers where they were treated to traditional latkes (potato pancakes fried in oil) prepared at Wolfies Restaurant. Rabbi Meir Borenstein from the Chabad Center of Orange County in Goshen led the crowd in singing traditional Hanukkah songs to end a memorable evening.