“… Light will automatically drive away the darkness. That’s the message of Hanukkah”

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The first day of Hanukkah was on Sunday. Celebrations took place across Monroe County, including one of the biggest menorahs in Rochester.

People gathered in Rochester Sunday night, to light the first lantern on the 20 foot menorah that will sit in Washington Square Park for the Jewish holiday. Chabad of Rochester says Hanukkah is the only Jewish tradition that’s shared publicly, others are done privately at home.

“One candle can drive away a lot of darkness, and not look at the world and say, oh its ridiculously crazy and there is nothing I can do about it, no Hanukkah reminds us that we are citizens of the world,” Rabbi Nechemia Vogel said.

In Jewish tradition, Rabbi Vogel says a menorah, or in this case the 20 foot steel menorah at Washington Square Park, is symbolism for peace and light. Rabbi says part of what Hanukkah is all about, is the belief that the light from the menorah will ward off darkness and negativity.

“We can stand there and yell about it, or we can light more candles, in other words bring more light, and the light will automatically drive away the darkness. That’s the message of Hanukkah.”

Rabbi Vogel says he was devastated to learn about the recent teens charged with arson and spray painting a swastika on a church sign in Perinton. He says it’s important for anyone to continue celebrating who they are.

“Everyone should be proud of who they are, but it reminds us that we have a job to do, we have to teach people to be tolerant, to recognize we’re not here to take anything away from anyone, and hatred is a dead end.”

People at the lighting of the menorah Sunday night agree.

“I would never shy away from being Jewish, and celebrating Jewish holidays. In the back of your mind there might be some concerns, but you just have to live your life, be positive, be a positive influence on people and be kind,” Susan Steklof said.

Hanukkah ends on December 26. You can see a list of local Hanukkah events here.