“Hanukkah is really a holiday celebrating the triumph of light over darkness,” said Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I- At Large) at the Capitol Hill Menorah Lighting.
Silverman is a member of the Hill Havurah congregation, which together with the Capitol Hill Business Improvement District (BID) hosted the ceremony. At the ceremony, she said that the message of Hanukkah is needed right now in this country, this city, and in the Capitol Hill neighborhood where the lighting took place Sunday evening of the steps of 212 East Capitol St. NE, the home of Jewish congregation Hill Havurah.
The 9-foot Menorah was a gift from the Capitol Hill BID to the community to honor former Board Chairman and community leader Paul L. Pascal, who died in April 2018. His wife, Brenda Pascal attended the event and the menorah itself was lit by their son Richard.
The ceremony featured comments by Silverman and Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D), as well as performances by the children of Gan Shalom Preschool and Yavneh Jewish Education Program, noted actress, dancer and singer Adalia Jimenez and the Havurah Harmonists. The BID’s “men in blue” served hot chocolate, coffee, and jelly doughnuts and gave children gift bags containing a small dreidel, or top, as well as chocolate coins.
Hill Havurah Rabbi Hannah Spiro said that this was a significant time in American history to be celebrating the Jewish Festival of Lights. “Reading the news we are so frequently reminded that anti-Semitism is on the rise and so it means an extra great deal to be braving the cold and the dark –although it’s really not that bad outside today, it’s kind of wonderful—to celebrate the festival of lights, and truly to celebrate Judaism together,” she said.
According to the event program, Hanukkah refers to the eight-day celebration of the liberation and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE, ending a period of religious persecution. At the time, Spiro said, the Jewish people did not turn inward and focus on security, but rather hosted the fall festival of Sukkot, which Spiro said is about ‘openness’.
“I do not think it was an accident that first Hanukkah was, in a way, Sukkot,” said Spiro. “It’s during these times when we’re afraid and feel threatened and see darkness around us that we need to keep the feeling of Sukkot in our hearts, the harvest-season style gratitude for the abundance that we do have.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the menorah was moved to the Eastern Market Metro Plaza Southwest quadrant, where it will be on display for the remainder of the eight nights of Hanukkah. It will stand next to the Capitol Hill community tree that the BID Men in Blue trimmed for the holiday season, which was lit Nov. 30.
Learn more about the Capitol Hill BID and the Menorah lighting event by visiting CapitolHillBID.org.