July 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Springfield Unites for Pittsburgh on Chanukah

Attended by over 350 people, Springfield’s “Evening of Unity” lived up to its name. The event was hosted by Temple Sha’arey Shalom and co-sponsored jointly by every Jewish organization in Springfield.

Flanked by Rabbi Renee Edelman of Sha’arey Shalom, Ben Hoffer, president of Orthodox Congregation Israel of Springfield, radiated energy and pride as he expressed how much this event meant to his shul and all of the participating community organizations.

“Despite the regularly assumed challenges of bringing such a diverse group together, it was incredibly heartwarming and inspiring to see how everyone was concerned about the comfort and sensitivities of the others involved. Everyone agreed that if the gunman who viciously murdered 11 of our fellow Jews in Pittsburgh could do so without distinguishing between denominations and, rather, sought to kill all Jews, then we should certainly be able to see each other as one unified people,” Hoffer said.

Donations collected at the door were processed quickly and electronically and sent to the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, which has set up a relief fund to benefit the families of the October 27 massacre victims. The welcome table was manned by Ya’el Hasson and Amy Kass, who made certain that everyone had a name tag complete with smile emoji stickers.

The entrance to the building was closely and carefully monitored by several sentries. One of the unfortunate lessons learned from the Pittsburgh murders is that we must never forget how necessary that is. Yet this somber message and the heightened security did not detract from the enthusiasm and excitement of the attendees.

Lively and contemporary Jewish music was provided by the DJ services of Henry Covner and the Body & Soul Band. There were activity stations for the kids, a fun photo station, a magic show headlined by Shai the Magic Guy, and a central buffet table loaded with kosher traditional Chanukah treats, in which “oil” (and sugar) was clearly the dominant theme.

But the main focus seemed to be on the comfortable intermingling of the attendees. Outfitted with or without kippot; in long skirts and pants, jeans and suits, with or without tzitzit, in T-shirts and collared shirts, and everything in between—even some pjs—participants shared smiles, laughter and singing, and even occasionally broke out in spontaneous small dance groups. It was truly a vision of unity that seemed to energize everyone in attendance.

The organizers put it this way: “This is only the beginning of our journey together. We thank you for coming to this event and look forward to partnering with each other as the unified Jewish community of Springfield for more events to come.”

The planning and participation roster included Rabbi Mendy Blesofsky of Chabad Jewish Center; Lesley Brooks, co-president of Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael; Rabbi Edelman; Hoffer; Jeff Kigner, co-president of Congregation Israel; Roberta Krumholz, co-president of Temple Sha’arey Shalom; Ellen Lieberman, co-president of Temple Sha’arey Shalom; Rabbi Mark Mallach of Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael; Rabbi Chaim Marcus of Congregation Israel; and Ilene Shewitz, co-president of Temple Beth Ahm. Others who assisted were Pam Bain, Daniella Hoffer, Josh Smilow and Andrea Wohl—all residents of Springfield.

To donate to the Pittsburgh Relief Fund, visit https://jewishpgh.org/our-victims-of-terror-fund/.

By Ellie WolfBy Ellie Wolf

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