It was a historic moment for the Jewish community of Prince Edward Island as they lit their first public menorah on the lawn of the Provincial Legislature to celebrate their 120 years of membership in the province and to mark the first day of Chanukah.
More than 60 community members gathered in Charlottetown to see the first light on an almost three-meter electric menorah on Sunday evening.
“This is historic. It is, in a sense, a public outing holiday for the Jews of Prince Edward Island,” said Martin Rutte, a member of the Jewish community.
“I can’t tell you how excited I was.”
Hanukkah commemorates the dedication of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and the recovery of Jerusalem from the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BC. The menorah has eight electric candles and a service light. Each night another light will come on at sunset until the menorah is fully lit on the last day of Chanukah.
“In 1898 there was actually a Jewish store across the street on Grafton. And for this man to have thought from 1898 to 2021 that there would actually be public lighting of the menorah on the legislative grounds of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island is unimaginable, ”said Rutte. .
The holiday is rooted in the story of Jews running out of oil for their menorah and only finding what they thought was enough for a day, but it lasted for eight days which turned into the celebration of the festival of lights: Hanukkah, said Rutte.
“At the end of the eight days, we increase the amount of light that goes out in the world,” he said.
“What a wonderful symbolism, not only for the Jewish community, but for the whole world, to enlighten the world.”
Rutte won the support of Green MP Hannah Bell, he said, who contacted Prime Minister Dennis King. King spoke at the event, encouraging the Jewish community to eat more latkes, a traditional potato pancake, given the current suspension of the fresh potato trade with the United States.
No synagogue in PEI.
Community member Joseph Glass is working on a book on the Jewish history of Prince Edward Island. The community has more than 200 people, he said.
“The Jewish community has always had various problems. On the one hand, there was a return of anti-Semitism, and there is probably still a little of it, but at the same time the Jewish community has evolved, grown, ”he said.
The Jews of PEI now feel more comfortable displaying their religion and Glass said the menorah streetlighting is the highlight.
“What was really fantastic was the parents bringing their kids,” he said.
“Kids running around all able to see this wonderful event and I hope they come back every year and be part of the lighting ceremony.”
Although the Jewish community always finds ways to pray together, there is no synagogue in PEI.
“We’re going to slowly build ourselves up and maybe one day we’ll build a synagogue and a cemetery, but right now our plans are just to keep growing and see where we can go with that.”
The menorah will remain in place until December 6, the last day of vacation.