Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Community Development, reflects on Islington's annual Hanukkah celebrations and why it is important for Islington Labour councillors to celebrate with the local Jewish community.
I am sure many of you have heard of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the festival of lights. But just in case, here is the story behind the holiday.
Around 2,000 years ago, the Maccabees, an army of Jewish rebels in Israel revolted against the Seleucid Greek King Antiochus who had tried to kill people of Jewish faith. The oppressed Maccabees defeated Antiochus and his mighty troops to reclaim the Temple in Jerusalem. In order to celebrate, they attempted a ritual lighting of a seven pronged Menorah candle – but they only had enough oil to last one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted a full eight days. Which is why Hanukkah is known as the festival of lights.
Thousands of years on and people of the Jewish faith still celebrate Hanukkah by lighting their Menorah every night for eight days. We also play games, eat fried goods such as potato latke, pancakes, doughnuts, chocolate coins wrapped in gold and silver and exchange gifts.
I am proud to say that Islington Council under a Labour administration contributes to the celebrations around Hanukkah every year. My fellow council colleagues and I contribute some of our allocated ward funding towards the annual Chabad Lubavitch lighting in the borough, so that every year the people of Islington can learn and celebrate with our local Jewish community. Held on Islington Green, Rabbi Mendy and others bring together people of all faiths, colours, genders and religions to understand what lighting the Menorah means in the Jewish Culture.
Championing festivals that are important to people of faith, respecting and honouring their traditions and values, really makes it known that Islington practices diversity through its actions. We encourage awareness and education of the wonderful communities that make up our borough.
With all that is happening in the world, it is more important than ever for the people of Islington to come together and learn more about one another, so that mistakes of the past are never repeated again.
My family and I enjoy celebrating Hanukkah in Islington ever year. If you haven’t already I hope that you and your family can come and join in the celebrations next year. Until then I wish you all a wonderful holiday season.
Image: A Menorah candle