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Lighting the Menorah in Oyster Bay Is an Ecumenical Community Event

Oyster Bay Civic Association and Jewish Center celebrate a miracle

It was a busy holiday season for Oyster Bay Jewish Center Rabbi Marvin Demant as he lead Channukah events on Monday, Dec. 19 at 4:30 p.m. at OBJC; 5 p.m. at Harbor House; and 5:30 p.m. at the Derby-Hall Bandstand.

Rabbi Demant said, “The Oyster Bay Jewish Center celebrated Channukah symbolically, on the day before the first candle was to be lit the next night. The reason was that all the children of the Oyster Bay Jewish Center Hebrew School are there on Mondays. Our Hebrew school meets on Monday and Wednesday so it is easy for us to get them together those days.”

FYI: Channukah doesn’t follow the everyday Georgian calendar but is set by the Hebrew calendar. The first day of Channukah this year was sunset on Dec. 21. The first day of winter was Dec. 22. The last day of Channukah was sunset on Dec. 28. The eight day Festival of Lights commemorates the burning of oil in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd century BCE (Before the Christian Era).

Hanukkah is observed starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. This explains why the date can fall at any time at the end of the year.

The menorah has nine branches with one above the others. It is called the shamash and is used to light the others.

Rabbi Demant said, “Lighting the menorah starts at the top, going from left to right during the eight days of Channukah. Several of the children helped light the menorah on Temple Way.

“The menorah at the Oyster Bay Jewish Center remained on until the following night and then they began the process of lighting one candle each night, first the one on the right, the second night two were lighted, and they went from left to right during the eight days of Channukah.

“The miracle of Channukah is that one bit of oil lasted eight days. Each time the oil in the menorah was lit, was a miracle,” said Rabbi Demant since there was only oil for one night.

Second Celebration

For the next stop, Rabbi Demant said, “The teachers and students from the OBJC school visited Oyster Bay Manor/Harbor House and there joined with residents from the Alzheimer’s and Assisted Living groups to redo the lighting of the Menorah, this time again, with electricity and not candles.

“Our teachers at the school, Rona Blau, Jana Rabinowitz and Melody Nelson along with Mrs. Judi Demant, our principal (and my wife) were there.

“Ms. Blau had the kids, adults and residents sing some Channukah songs and the Jewish and non-Jewish people loved the singing. I started clapping and they joined in. It was a beautiful sight and it makes your heart feel good to see them enjoying themselves.” The candle lighting was again symbolic since it was the day before the actual event.

Third Menorah Lighting

The Rabbi said at the Channukah Menorah lighting at the Derby-Hall Bandstand in Townsend Park Oyster Bay Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia joined them in singing.

Rabbi Demant said, “ Bagel Boss of East Norwich gave us potato pancakes and donuts – which are called ‘sufganiyot’ which are jelly donuts. Why eat jelly donuts with pancakes? Because they are fried in oil. Both are great for your cholesterol,” he joked.

Oyster Bay Civic Association President Bill von Novak said that his group provides the refreshments for both the annual tree lighting and menorah lighting at the Derby-Hall Bandstand. “These two ceremonies are a good indication of good will in the town and it is heartwarming to be involved with them.”

Some of the foodstuffs were purchased and some donated. “Sweet Tomato’s Tina Mazzarella donated the coffee. Eileen Smith, manager of Bagel Boss in East Norwich donated latkes and applesauce as well as a tray of jelly donuts. We were going to pay for them when Eileen said they were donated.

“We did pay for additional donuts and cookies for the event. So it was a cooperative effort. Mostly because of the donation of Bagel Boss; Eileen is wonderful and couldn’t do enough for us,” said Mr. vonNovak.

Many thanks go to past OBCA board member Stan Spiegelman who chairs the menorah lighting annually.

 Rabbi Demant had the last words: “Then all went to our respective homes and the next night we gathered to light the first candle on the Channukah Menorah.”