Monday, November 25, 2013

Kalamazoo-area Jewish community displays menorah for first time in Bronson Park 

For the first time, the Jewish community in Kalamazoo will have a display among Bronson Park's holiday decorations.

Members of the Jewish community installed a 12-foot Hanukkah menorah at the corner of Rose and South Street in Bronson Park on Sunday.

The menorah was purchased by the Jewish Federation of Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan with donations from the Congregation of Moses, Temple B'nai Israel and Kalamazoo Chabad.

"It's nice that the Jewish community has a presence here," said Beth Grode, president of The Jewish Federation of Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan. "I'm very happy and excited."

The menorah is a traditionally a symbol of miracles, but the menorah in Bronson Park also serves as a symbol of collaboration for the 500 practicing members of the Jewish community in Kalamazoo.

The Kalamazoo community is invited to celebrate the "festival of lights" at 5 p.m. each day for a menorah lighting in Bronson Park. The first lighting will take place Wednesday, the first night of Hanukkah.

On Sunday, the fifth night of Hanukkah, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Matisyahu will join the community and lead those assembled in song for the candle lighting before his performance at Kalamazoo State Theatre at 8 p.m.

On Wednesday, Dec. 4, the last night of Hanukkah, children and parents from local religious schools will celebrate around the display with traditional Jewish food and treats.

Kalamazoo city officials approved display of the menorah in Bronson Park, Grode said.

Rabbi Mordechai Haller and his wife, Dobrushe Haller, said there wasn't any opposition to a menorah being placed in Bronson Park.

"Hanukkah celebrates religious freedom," he said. "This emphasizes the idea that we can express publicly without fear."

The idea came from a community member who had mentioned having some sort of display in the park during Hanukkah.

In a rarity on the calendar, Hanukkah intersects with Thanksgiving this year. This has never happened since Thanksgiving has been an official holiday, according to Grode, who said it won't happen again for another 70,000 years.


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