During Thursday night’s workshop discussion of the December 15th Mayor & Council meeting, Mayor Carl Hokanson brought up the proposal to have the municipality purchase and display a menorah – also known as a chanukiah – at Michael Mauri Park during Hannukah.
“The reason why I’m asking to do it tonight is I think the first day of Hannukah is December 24th. So I’d like to get it up and ready to go before December 24th which only gives us a week,” said Mayor Hokanson.
When asked about its cost by First Ward Councilman Eugene Meola, Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Blum responded it would be a one-time expense of around $940.
“What does this look like?” asked Fourth Ward Councilman Thomas ‘Thos’ Shipley.
“A menorah,” jokingly responded Councilwoman-At-Large Charlene Storey before Mr. Blum explained that it will be a 4½ high by 4½ wide display.
Councilwoman Storey then reasonably asked Borough Attorney Richard Huxford, “If we add a menorah, are we then open to any religion requesting a symbol of their religion to be put up legally?”
Mr. Huxford affirmatively responded, “It’s based on the holiday time so it’s hard for me to talk in abstract but that’s something that council would have to consider.”
There was mention of allowing the future inclusion of other end-of-year holiday emblems, such as the cultural festival of Kwanzaa.
The councilwoman reminded the mayor that someone would need to be designated to light a candle every night.
Mayor Hokanson agreed, “Yes because I did get a phone call the other day. Apparently, the Christmas trees weren’t on so there will be a person doing that every night before they go home . . . He will also be in charge of lighting the Menorah. It’s at sunset.”
Although for some, this may echo back to other controversies regarding public displays, this apparent gesture of inclusiveness was welcomed by all members of the governing body. Additionally, there is a National Menorah Lighting at the White House every year.
The menorah is used to celebrate the Jewish festival of Hannukah or Chanukah. Also known as the festival of lights, it is an eight-day festival beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev to commemorate the miracle of a one-day supply of oil that lasted eight days and nights when Israelites reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after waging battle against and driving out Greek armies in a revolution against assimilation and the suppression of Jewish religion.
A menorah is a linear nine-candle candelabrum in a straight line with the center candle, called the shamash, the only candle higher than the others – all other candles are to be on the same level. The shamash is to be used to light the other eight candles every night one-by-one. After sunset on the first night of Hannukah – the evening of December 24th this year – the candle furthest right of the shamash is lit. The following night, the candle next to the first candle is lit first by the shamash, then the furthest right candle is lit. Every subsequent night, the candles that will be illuminated go from right to left but they are lit left to right. The only time the candles should be lit before sundown is on Friday – this year that falls on December 30th.
The menorah is set to be on display by Christmas Eve.