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Illuminating the World with Hanukkah Light

Posted on Tuesday, December 04, 2018 by Becca Thomas

Pictured above is The Wexner Foundation staff. Top row from left to right: Rachel Sosin, Linda Smith, Rabbi Michael Emerson, Rabbi Ben Berger, Rabbi Jay Moses, Elisha Gechter, Ra'anan Avital, Or Mars. Second row from left to right: Noam Soker, Lori Baron, Keren Zefania, Dana Savoray-Hadar, Stefanie Zelkind, Becca Thomas, Ruthie Warshenbrot and Rabbi Elka Abrahamson. Front row from left to right: Jaclyn Szaruga, Angie Atkins, Tal Kedmi Winbrom, Dara Katzner and Melinda Secrest Whittington. 

This Hanukkah, we hope you feel the light that Wexner members, fellows, senior leaders and alumni are sharing from around the world. In a time when many feel darkness, we are strengthened when others choose to illuminate the world with good deeds, bold work and strong leadership. Below you'll see a sampling of members of our Wexner Network who took their Hanukkiot to special places around their homes. Many also had stories to share about the menorahs that will help light this Hanukkah week.  

Chag Orim Sameach!  
 

Dovid Knoll
WHP, Pittsburgh 18

We could not think of two better Menorahs to represent Pittsburgh this year. The first Menorah chosen represents the goodness and humanity around us. Our Firetruck Menorah honors the first responders who heroically rushed to Tree of Life and prevented a horrific incident from becoming even worse.

Our second Menorah represents the survival and triumph over inhumanity and evil. My Father and Grandparents had to flee Germany after Kristallnacht due to the unfathomable crimes being perpetrated against the Jews by the Police, Government officials, neighbors, etc. This Menorah resembles and represents the one my Grandfather had to leave behind. 

While it is unfortunate that the same horrendous antisemitic crimes are still being perpetuated 80 years later, the situation has changed. We are blessed to live in a city (and country) where our First Responders, Government and neighbors no longer systematically persecute but shower us with security, concern and love. 

We look forward to lighting our Menorahs proudly this year. As the great Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." May the light of the Menorah and love toward each other help bring us closer to that reality.

Much love to the extended Wexner family for their outpouring of love and support.

Pictures include:
1. PPG Arena (Penguins)
2. Heinz field (Steelers)
3. PNC Park (Pirates)
4. The Point Overlook (Merging of the three rivers)
5. Grandview Overlook of the city skyline
6. Squirrel Hill 
7. Stronger then Hate 
8. Zone 4 police station. Two blocks away from Tree of life. They were earliest first responders to engage the gunman. 
9. Tree of life 

Sarah Hadar
WIF, Class 30

Eighteen-years ago I received this menorah as a gift for marriage from a friend whose main characteristics, like the lights of the Menorah, are optimism, happiness and hope! My friend could not have given me a better gift since lighting the menorah is for me a magical moment of happiness with family and friends but also, the symbol of hope for better days, hope for a more just and tolerant society and hope for victory over darkness. Hanukkah is a significant annual reminder for me and all the Jewish people that we should never give up, no matter what is happening. The terrible situation Israeli citizens face in the country and the recent and tragic events that happened in the Tree of Life Pittsburgh’s community is the symbol of the darkness, and the lights of the menorah remind to us that we can illuminate and expel that darkness. May these eight days of Hanukkah bring light, love and happiness to all the people of Israel and the entire world.

Phreddy Nosanwisch 
WGF, Class 31

In December 2017, Blair Nosanwisch and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary (Rosh Chodesh Tevet) by travelling to Ias, Romania, where my grandfather and great grandparents were born. We spent the last night of Hanukkah squatting on the ground by a Holocaust memorial — protecting all nine candles of the Hanukkiah from the cold wind as we sang and prayed. 


Hila Oren, CEO, The Tel Aviv Foundation
WSL 16

This Hanukkiah belongs to one of my team members, Michael, a recent oleh from Sydney, Australia. The Hanukkiah was crafted in Tel Aviv and, almost 11 years ago to the day, traveled to Sydney as a gift for Michael on his wedding day. Just over a year ago, Michael made Aliyah with his wife and three children. This will be his first Hanukkah as an employee of the Tel Aviv Foundation. It is so important to me to have a diverse team, and Michael brings tremendous international experience. This Hanukkah, it is my pleasure to celebrate the homecoming of Michael and his Hanukkiah!

 

Gidi Rubinstein 
WIF, Class 30

I chose to photograph this Hanukkiah in the new Wexner Commons at Harvard Kennedy School. It is a Hanukkiah I received from Elisha, our incredibly inspiring program leader. For me this symbolizes in the best possible way the journey that we are undergoing this year: Rediscovering the joint interwoven roots we share with our Jewish brothers and sisters overseas; allowing ourselves time and space to shed light and advance areas of our knowledge through curiosity and togetherness; and being reminded of our collective responsibility as an ‘Am Sgula’ to spread light wherever we go. 

Jackie Rafii
WGF, Class 31

My parents bought this Hanukkiah 40 years ago when they were living in Israel. They had just fled their homeland of Iran, as it was no longer safe for Jews to live there after the Revolution of 1979. The backdrop is the charred, wooded hills of Bell Canyon (right behind the synagogue where I work), which were burned in the recent Woolsey Fire in Southern California. To me, the light of this Hanukkiah represents a rebuilding and a renewal: of the trees, homes and lives affected by the fires; of my parents’ lives and identity as they settled in a new home in Israel and then the United States; and of the Jewish people, who time and time again, miraculously, find ways to rebuild light and hope in the face of challenges. 

Rebecca Rosenthal
WGF, Class 16

We have many menorahs in our house, from fancy ones we got for our wedding, to the ones my kids have made every year of school. Even though they are a bit of a fire hazard, I love lighting the ones my kids made. It connects me to who they were when they made them, and it shows them that they have their own connection to Judaism. They have so much pride each time we bring them out and they can't wait to show them off and sing the blessings and songs that they know. It allows us to have a moment of family time, even during the busy week. That brings light to the darkness this time of year.

 

Gidi Schmerling,
WSL 17, Director, Media and Communication, Tel Aviv Municipality, poses in front of the Tel Aviv Municipality building with the largest menorah in the world at 40 meters wide, 36 meters high.

Rachel Stein
WHP, Chicago 17

My parents gave this menorah to me after I graduated from college when I was living on my own. It is (as you can see from the photo) a sculptural representation of three women “lifting up” the light.  Being a strong, independent woman was always instilled in me growing up and whenever I light this Menorah, I am reminded of my place in my family, my community and the world and the responsibility I have of “lifting up” the lights of others. Each member of my family lights their own Menorah each night-one that either they made or was given to them, and it is a special reminder that each of us can make a difference in our own way, bringing light into the world…

Just look around you…a world of tragedy, conflict, inhumanity. That’s one reality.  But while it is what we hear, see and experience, it is a limited perception. There is a deeper reality beyond our senses. And when we light we are connecting to that deeper reality. A reality where we are all connected, where love is unconditional and where we don’t experience a fragmented world, but a unified mankind. It might take a miracle to bridge the gap in our consciousness, but this month and Hanukkah in particular, the metaphysical realm is primed for miracles. Much as the flames defy gravity and burn upwards, we too must go against our ego-centric nature and see a deeper reality. When we light the wicks we need to be conscious of the opportunity we have to channel miracles and to ask the Creator/Universe for specifics. Please help us build bridges not tear each other down. Please help us to see our similarities not our differences. Please help us to lead the way beyond denominations, political affiliations and external bias. We may be few in number, but this is our month.

David Strulowitz
WHP, Chicago 06
 

Elisha Horen Gechter
Senior Program Manager, Wexner Israel Programs

We bought our first home six months ago so this will be our first Hanukkah in our new place. On our block there are three other Jewish households — one of whom hung up blue sparkling lights and a tinsel Magen David last week before anyone had any other holiday decor up on our block. This inspired me to create a Hanukkah wreath for our front door as well. We picked this Hanukkiah out as a wedding gift from my parents — my parents are great gift givers, sometimes picking out things we love, and sometimes inviting us to pick out something we love that they will in turn get for us. We had not registered for any Judaica, so this was a nice opportunity to add something to our collection that would be of our choosing. We went to a shop in Teaneck, NJ 12 years ago when we were engaged, and this laser-cut Hanukkiah really spoke to me — I love the lettering, the type face reminds me of an ancient text, and the shape of the menorah is so simple but classic. The truth was I picked it out for myself, since my husband and I planned to continue each lighting our own menorahs, and he had one he had been using for decades that he loved, and I who was born on the fourth night of Hanukkah, was using a travel version at the time, and liked the idea of starting our marriage with a more permanent one. It stood the test of time and all these years later I still love lighting it. I also like the idea that in theory you could fold it back onto itself and reunite the positive and negative cutout that the artist originally rendered. That both the cut-out image and the background it leaves behind are beautiful and meaningful shapes is an important message to start a marriage with.

 

Ezra Koman, Israel Tour Operator, Jerusalem 

 Keep the light coming! We'd love to see how and where your menorahs are lighting up the sky. Please post your Hanukkiot pictures in our group on Facebook.  

Comments

Uplifting and illuminating article!  Thank you!! 


Posted on Friday, December 07, 2018 at 10:02 PM by Diane Kahn

VEry thoughtful and  lovely. I will remember all these people when I light my menorah tonight.


Posted on Thursday, December 06, 2018 at 1:27 AM by Roshi Newman