Warwick residents celebrate Hanukkah at 18th anniversary of Warwick Menorah lighting

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:46

WARWICK — After a few years of snow on the ground, low temperatures or heavy rain, the clear skies and mild weather was a welcome blessing for everyone able to attend the first night of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. On Tuesday evening, Dec. 20, a large crowd of local residents including Supervisor Michael Sweeton and Mayor Michael Newhard were present at Lewis Park as Moshe Schwartzberg, owner of Forever Jewelers, began officiating once more at the 18th anniversary of Warwick’s Menorah lighting. Schwartzberg began the ceremony by taking a moment to thank members of the Village of Warwick DPW for refurbishing the large wooden Menorah on their own time at no cost to the Village. He then explained the religious significance of the festival in words that children as well as adults could understand. Occasionally using terms like “the good guys” and “the bad guys” he told the story of how the Temple of Jerusalem was about to be rededicated following its recapture after occupation and defilement by the pagan Greeks under Antiochus IV. A small band of fighters, led by Judah Maccabee, he explained, fought to preserve the Jewish religion and culture and their right to worship God. They recaptured the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which the Syrian-Greeks had defiled with idol worship and pagan sacrifices. When the Maccabees sought to rededicate the temple, however, they found only one cruse of oil to kindle the eternal light. Miraculously, he explained, because God was pleased with what they had accomplished, the oil lasted for eight days. And that provided enough time for the holy oil to be replenished. 'A small Jewish army’ Schwartzberg also added that it was a miracle that a small Jewish army was able to defeat a much larger and more professional army. “The Jews were not soldiers,” he joked. “They were lawyers, doctors and accountants.” That brought loud laughter from the crowd although most everyone including Schwartzberg knew the Maccabean forces at that time were well respected as fierce fighters who defeated the larger army with guerrilla tactics. Schwartzberg then lit the center lamp, called the shamas, which is the ninth candle used to light the others, before lighting the first candle of the eight-day festival. 'Baruch ata Adonai ...’ But before doing that he read the sacred prayers, first in English so that everyone would understand, and then in Hebrew, according to the tradition of the ceremony. “Blessed are you Hashem our God King of the universe,” Schwartzberg read aloud, “who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this season ....” And then he repeated in Hebrew, “Baruch ata Adonai .....” Then everyone, led by Schwartzberg and Rabbi Meir Borenstein from the Chabad Center of Orange County, joined in singing traditional Hannukah songs. Non-Jewish guests had the advantage of being able to refer to song sheets printed in both English and phonetic Hebrew. Schwartzberg and his wife, Doris, have continued to improve the celebration each year with Hannukah songs, gifts and traditional latkes. - Roger Gavan