HAPPY HANUKKAH: Statehouse menorah lights up second night of Jewish holiday at community event

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COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — The Isadore E. Lourie Memorial Hanukkah menorah lighting event honors a South Carolina senator and celebrates the Jewish holiday.

Monday evening, his family were part of the guest speakers at the ceremony at the statehouse on the second night of Hanukkah.

“I’m proud to be Jewish and you can see that wherever I go,” said Lourie’s grandson.

“The Hanukkah story tells how the Syrian Greeks didn’t want the Jewish people to act Jewish anymore,” said another Jewish girl in the opening messsage.

While the holiday celebrates a successful Jewish revolt against persecution against Greeks almost 2,200 years ago, it’s still important in 2021.

“The victory of a small group over an oppressive large group. The victory of good over evil and light over darkness are themes that are relevant to us today,” said Rabbi Hesh Epstein of Chabad of South Carolina.

The 16th annual lighting of the menorah at the statehouse is back after being cancelled the past two years for weather and the pandemic.

“The past two years have been very rough for this country and the world in terms of the pandemic, overall pain and suffering and a lot of darkness,” the rabbi said. “This is the holiday of light and an opportunity to push the darkness away.”

The traditions and celebrations of the holiday can also be done safely even in the middle of a pandemic.

“Light the Hanukkah menorah, play the dreidel, eat the latkes and do all the things that are traditional for the holiday,” Epstein said. “If you properly distance and mask, you can get together with friends as well.”

One of those safe celebrations took place at tonight’s menorah lighting celebration with appearances from special guests Governor McMaster and Mayor Benjamin.

“Coming together as a family and as a community to light the menorah, sing songs and remember the moments where people tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat,” said Ana Sazonov, Columbia Jewish Federation executive director.

The event also hoped to shed a light on anti-Semitism which has been on the rise.

“Recent FBI hate crime numbers are showing very, very concerning numbers,” Sazonov said.

Those FBI numbers for 2020 show that more than half of the religious hate crimes in the United States in 2020 targeted Jews, despite American Jews only making up 2 percent of the overall population. 

“We can never let it be acceptable or normal to espouse hatred. Now more than ever, good people must stand up and speak out,” said former state senator Joel Lourie.

It’s why the event stressed the resiliency and pride of the Jewish people. 

“We’re not resilient because of the suffering we have faced. We’re not resilient because of the efforts of so many to do us harm. We are resilient despite those efforts,” said historian and keynote speaker Deborah Lipstadt. 

Lipstadt is President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the first US special envoy to combat anti-Semitism.

Hanukkah continues until sundown a week from today.

Categories: Local News, Richland