Chagrin Falls made quiet history this weekend when a crowd of 50 people gathered in Bell Street Park for a public celebration of Hanukkah and lighting of the first candle on a larger-than life menorah.
Following on the heels of Solon, which has held a public observance for years, the Chagrin Falls event was the first official event of its kind for the village and was the brainchild of local resident Ellie Mayer.
Ms. Mayer, who isn’t Jewish, first suggested the menorah be added to the village’s downtown Christmas lighting display a year ago, but unexpected delays postponed it from happening until 2021. A successful crowdfunding campaign was held and more than $2,000 was raised to fund the project with monies coming from Jews and non-Jews alike.
Ms. Mayer has said her motivation was inspired by her stepfather, who taught her to appreciate the symbols and celebrations of all religions, and a desire to embrace diversity as a way to find a greater understanding of people from all walks of life.
In a day and age when much is made of our differences and some political figures seem to want to cause division and strife amongst their fellow Americans, we support Ms. Mayer’s efforts and salute Lindsey Rosenberg and the Ohio Northern B’nai B’rith Youth Organization for making last weekend’s event a success.
With its origins stemming as a celebration of religious freedom for Jewish people dating back to the the second century, the message of Hanukkah is as important today as ever before, according to Solon Rabbi Zushe Greenberg.
“Hanukkah is relevant to every human being in the world who believes in religious freedom,” he said. “It teaches us that every day, we have to add a candle to the world, light it a little more and add something good to the world.”
And we couldn’t agree more.
Our country has never been more divided as it is today and the glow of the menorah in Solon – and now Chagrin Falls – should serve as a bright reminder that diversity should be celebrated, not villainized.
That’s a message that should resonate with Jews and non-Jews alike.
“What is good for yesterday is not enough for tomorrow,” Rabbi Greenberg said.
We wholeheartedly agree.
The celebration of light traditionally continues for eight days with an additional candle being lighted each night.
It’s our hope that the residents of Solon and the entire Chagrin Valley make a concerted effort to keep that spirit alive throughout the year.
Whether you’re a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or even agnostic or atheist, we hope you can recognize the importance of unity, especially this time of year. With the closing days of a tumultuous 2021 upon us, there has never been a better time to bring a little extra light into the world.
Thank you to Ms. Mayer, Rabbi Greenberg, and everyone involved in both celebrations for making this holiday season even more special for all of us.
Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas. Good tidings to all.