116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Public menorah lighting returns to Cedar Rapids
Outdoor celebration designed to bring unity to community
The Eastern Iowa Jewish communities may not be able to stop incidents like the antisemitic flyers distributed in Coralville earlier this month, but they can shine their light in the darkness, said Rabbi Aron Schimmel, 49, of Postville, director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Northeast Iowa.
The center is part of Chabad-Lubavitch, a 300-year-old Ultra Orthodox Jewish movement that among its tenets is outreach: “going out and spreading the light to the Jewish people, wherever they are, and also to all humanity,” Schimmel said.
So in that spirit — as well as building cultural bridges and celebrating Hanukkah, history, tradition, diversity and religious freedom — three candles on a 10-foot outdoor menorah will be lighted at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in front of Ginsberg Jewelers, 4647 First Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids.
If you go
What: Hanukkah Public Menorah Lighting celebration, project of Chabad of Northeast Iowa
Where: Outdoors, in front of Ginsberg Jewelers, 4647 First Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022
Admission: Free and open to anyone, regardless of faith
Features: Lighting three candles for the third night of Hanukkah; latkes and doughnuts; singing, dancing; gifts for children; greetings and more
Details: Call Chabad of Northeast Iowa, (563) 380-7771, or email email@example.com
In Springville: Indoor celebration sponsored by Linn-Jones Chavurah, 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21, Springville Memorial Library, 264 Broadway St.; with menorah lighting and more; for details or to RSVP, call Lena Gilbert at (319) 241-9249
The hourlong event is open to everyone, free of charge, and includes greetings, singing, dancing, gifts and dreidel tops for the children, as well as doughnuts and latkes (potato pancakes), a traditional Hanukkah food. Schimmel said they’ll bring more food this year, since they ran out last year.
“Everyone is welcome — everyone,” Schimmel said.
Uniting at an event like this is one of the good deeds people can build upon to make the world a better and more welcoming place.
“It starts with one good deed … and then we have the power to overcome darkness,” Schimmel said. “A little light dispels much darkness. Tomorrow you add another one. …
“Unfortunately, the dark energies also are an ever increasing number, that you have to always add in positive in order to fight negativity and darkness. It’s not by fighting with it — just adding the positive and automatically that negative disappears. That’s a very important message, especially in our nowadays,” he said. “People are worried about the children. … We should add good activities with the children, good actions. Take them out and tell them a story. Be with them. …
“Don’t worry about the negativity — good actions with our children, with the communities will automatically make the negativity disappear. …
“And last but not least, the key is to be outgoing, to not be on the defense, but on the offense. … Where the darkness is, light the menorah. We can do it outside on the streets. Where they are, add the light. Don’t wait for the darkness to come into our house. Go out and confront it and bring out the goodness … where the dark energies are. Go out and pursue light and positivity. That’s a message for all humanity — everybody can relate to that.”
The traveling menorah will keep spreading its light around Eastern Iowa throughout Hanukkah.
“We go to different places each night,” Schimmel said, including Fairfield’s Central Park at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Festival of Lights
Hanukkah, which begins Dec. 18 and ends Dec. 26, is not a holiday, noted Steven Ginsberg, 62, of Cedar Rapids, owner and vice president of Ginsberg Jewelers, where the community menorah lighting will be held.
“Hanukkah is a festival,” he said. “It's called ‘The Festival of Lights’ — that’s a very carefully chosen word. It’s not a holiday — there’s nothing biblical about Hanukkah.”
He’s proud to host the ceremony, “because it does speak to diversity — more so general diversity than, ‘Hey, I’m a Jew.’ I don’t tend to think that way,” he said. “I probably still have more of an outsider feeling about being Jewish in a majority Christian nation. But I'm also more of an intellectual Jew than I am a religious Jew.”
Still, he embraces Hanukkah’s spirit and is happy Schimmel contacted him about providing the space for the Cedar Rapids public celebration, now in its second year.
According to chabad.org, Hanukkah “celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.” More than 2,100 years ago, Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks) ruled the Holy Land, and “tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs. … Against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of God.”
A statement announcing the Cedar Rapids menorah lighting further explained: “ … the Syrian Greeks desecrated and defiled the oils prepared for the lighting of the menorah, which was part of the daily service in the temple. Upon recapturing the temple … the Jewish people found only one jar of undefiled oil, enough to burn only one day, but it lasted miraculously for eight days until new, pure olive oil was produced.”
Ginsberg hopes the menorah lighting brings to the community the “mere observation (that) this is going on. That's the most I would hope from it — that people drive by and see, ‘Oh, that’s a menorah. That’s from the Jewish faith.’ … If this is repeated long enough, then some kid growing up here whose parents say, ‘Oh look, there’s a menorah for Hanukkah,’ then that kid grows up, goes wherever they will go in the world, and remember that. It's as simple as that — recognizing another icon.”
A separate menorah lighting and Hanukkah celebration will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Springville Memorial Library.
The indoor event, sponsored by Linn-Jones Chavurah, also features latkes, chocolate gelt coins, dreidels, music, a short documentary about Jewish composers who wrote cherished Christmas music, and more.
For information or to RSVP, call Lena Gilbert at (319) 241-9249.
Comments: (319) 368-8508; firstname.lastname@example.org