Mayor and new MP join St Albans Jewish Community to light festival candles in City Centre
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Thursday 2nd January 2020

Among those lighting candles at the Clock Tower in the centre of St Albans (December 29, 2019) for the city’s fifth annual public Menorah lighting were – for the first time -  the newly-elected St Albans Lib-Dem MP Daisy Cooper, as well as the Mayor of St Albans, Cllr Janet Smith. They were guests of honour at the ceremony, organised by St Albans United Synagogue to mark the Jewish festival of Chanukah, also called the Festival of Lights.     

A crowd of more than 100 from the local Jewish community gathered to watch as the candles were lit on a six-foot high Menorah (nine-branched candelabrum), known as a Chanukiah, under the guidance of the synagogue’s minister, Rabbi Daniel Sturgess. Because it was the final night of the eight-day festival (starting from one candle, plus the shamash – meaning helper or servant - used to light all the other candles, an extra candle is added each night), all of the nine candles were lit. And with the formal part of the event over, all stayed to enjoy the free doughnuts, traditionally eaten by Jews at Chanukah, handed out by synagogue members.

“One of the central themes of Chanukah,” said Rabbi Sturgess in his address, “is that of bringing light into the world.  It is a recognition that the world is a dark place, and it is our responsibility to do what we can to make the world a lighter place.” Referring to the previous night’s antisemitic attacks in New York and the appearance of antisemitic graffiti in Hampstead, “it does not go unacknowledged,” he added, “that we are able to stand here and do this wonderful thing of lighting our Chanukiah, in the presence of our MP and our Mayor, and with the protection of the local police.  We are so very appreciative of the support we receive from the wider community.”

Chanukah was not only a festival of light but also a celebration of religious freedom, commented Daisy Cooper, adding that it was an absolute delight to be able to celebrate it in the heart of St Albans, while the Mayor also emphasised the importance of promoting mutual understanding between different cultural and religious groups in the modern world. “Providing opportunities such as this plays a big part in bringing this about,” she said. “And it is very good to note that St Albans is the sort of place where all can live amicably alongside each other, and it is possible to hold such an event as this where all are welcome.”  

Photo: Guests of honour at St Albans United Synagogue's public Chanukiah lighting in the city centre on the final night of Chanukah (December 29, 2019) were the Mayor of St Albans, Cllr Janet Smith (centre) and the newly-elected St Albans Lib-Dem MP Daisy Cooper,seen here with the shul's Rabbi Daniel Sturgess. More than 100 adults and children, not just from the host shul but from the entire local Jewish community, attended the event.

By Jay Grenby