May 16, 2024
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Chanukah Shines a Light on Times Square

On November 29, the second night of Chanukah, thousands of New Yorkers descended upon Times Square for the Shine-a-Light event to generate awareness of the rise of antisemitism. The event was organized by UJA-Federation, JCRC-NY, ADL New York/New Jersey, AJC New York, and the New York Board of Rabbis. The event included elected officials and performances by the Maccabeats, David Broza, the Christian Cultural Center Choir and Matisyahu. Eboni K. Williams, attorney, journalist and star of Real Housewives of New York, hosted the program.

In her opening remarks, Williams expressed, “I’m here to tell you, New York, I’m a friend of the Jewish community. It’s not enough to be silent, because to be silent in the wake of unprecedented antisemitism in this country, the great city of New York, that’s to be complicit. I am not complicit. … It’s not enough to just be an ally; in this moment, we have to be co-conspirators routing out antisemitism to the gut. It’s not a Jewish issue; it’s an American issue.”

Political and Jewish leaders on the podium included NYS Governor Kathy Hochul, NYS Attorney-General Letitia James, NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio, Deputy Consul-General of Israel in NY Israel Nitzan, Representative Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, UJA-Federation of NY CEO Eric Goldstein, NY Board of Rabbis’ EVP Joseph Potasnik, JCRC-NY CEO Gideon Taylor, and antisemitism victim Joseph Borgen.

“The battle against hatred continues to this day,” declared Hochul. “There has been oppression, hatred and antisemitism that has run rampant for far too long. I’m here to say, as the governor of the great state of New York, there is no hate in our state. We will stamp that out, right here and right now.” Hochul continued, “We’ll shine a light, which is what Chanukah is all about. The Festival of Lights reminds us of the struggles of the Old Testament; how a miracle happened. Oil was transformed into light, to light the way for people for eight days instead of just one. That is the kind of miracle we call on today: the miracle to eradicate the hate that lives in some people’s hearts.”

Borgen described the May 20, 2021, attack, only a few blocks away, while coming to a Times Square rally supporting Israel. “I was texting my friends. Before I could react, I was jumped by a group of violent antisemites who shouted antisemitic slurs at me. I was beaten on the ground viciously.”

Borgen continued, “Let me be clear, they attacked me not because I was Israeli. They attacked me because I was Jewish. The attack on me, unfortunately, was not an isolated incident, from deadly attacks in Pittsburgh to Poway to Jersey City to Nazi symbolism and vicious antisemitic Israel-hate. On campus, antisemitism is increasing to record levels around the United States.

“We’re here today together with tens of thousands of people across the country to shine a light on antisemitism in the miracle of the light of Chanukah—the light that says Jews will not stand by and let this take place. The light that says Jews will stand up strong and together as one,” Borgen added, joining Holocaust survivors Jehuda and Leah Evron to light the menorah.

Following the menorah blessings, James added, “All of us must unite today, as we stand here in the crossroads of the world, as we raise our flag and proudly proclaim that there will be no more hate, as long as we stand together.”

DiNapoli then added, “The message of Chanukah is hope over despair, light over darkness, love over hate. That is what we all need to keep in mind. There is no place for intolerance, for bigotry, and for antisemitism in New York City, in New York State or in the United States of America.”

DeBlasio stressed, “We’ll never allow antisemitism in our midst. This city embraces and loves our Jewish community, the largest Jewish community of any city on the earth. We protect the community. When we see hatred, we fight it. When we see hate crimes, we go after them. We have to show it will not be accepted. … On Chanukah, we remember the hope created every day in this beautiful community, New Yorkers of all backgrounds, celebrating and supporting this Jewish community together.”

Shine-a-Light, a national initiative during Chanukah, will illuminate the dangers of antisemitism through education, community partnerships, engagement and advocacy, with over 60 North American Jewish and non-Jewish organizations and corporations, in a comprehensive multi-media campaign for schools and workplaces.

Iconic buildings nationwide will be illuminated in yellow, representing symbolic Chanukah lights, from November 28 to December 6. New York’s buildings include 3, 4 and 7 World Trade Center, as well as the Oculus.

By Judy Berger

 

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