Jewish community comes together to celebrate Hanukkah

Bel Air's Jewish community and friends came together Sunday evening to light the menorah and celebrate the second night of Hanukkah.

It was a celebration inside the Bel Air Reckord Armory on Main Street, with about 60 people drinking hot apple cider, eating latkes and doughnuts and wishing each other a happy Hanukkah.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman and Chabad of Harford County organized the event, in its third year, and thanked everyone for coming and "making this event what it is for the third time."

He told the crowd that the "highlight of the festival of Hanukkah is kindling the menorah."

Schusterman said the menorah symbolizes two perspectives, focusing on the present and looking to the future, and lighting one candle at a time represents "small, responsible steps" in one's life to getting to where they need to go.

Harford County Executive David Craig, who wore a yarmulke, addressed everyone and said it was "a pleasure to be here and offer the best during this holiday."

Craft tables were set up for children to make their own menorahs and decorate dreidels.

Bel Air resident Barbara Dixon came with her daughter, Teri Schulze, and her daughter's significant other, Ray.

Before the event - her first time at a menorah lighting - she read about the history of Hanukkah and the traditions on the Internet and was prepared for the night.

"It's a happy time," she said, adding that she'll be giving a gift for the holiday.

In a few weeks, Dixon will be taking part in her own traditions, by going to church Christmas Eve and gathering with family the next day for dinner.

Schulze and her significant other, Ray Friedman, both of Bel Air, support each other and celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas.

Friedman, originally from New Jersey, said he always lights a menorah at home. This year, he added, Schulze got him a more "contemporary" one.

"As long as it's got nine candles, it's good to go," he joked.

His favorite part of the Hanukkah holiday is the dreidel and "what it stand for."

"It talks about a great miracle," he explained. "I believe miracles are all around us - we just have to open our eyes."

Friedman's father, a rabbi for 50 years, recently passed away and this was his first Hanukkah without him - a very emotional time.

"He touched more lives than any of us will ever know," he said.

Through all the festivities in the week, Friedman stressed that everyone remember the true message of Hanukkah: "The weak overcoming the strong."

Although he's Christian, Steve Doyle, of Bel Air, came to the menorah lighting with his wife, Jamie, who is Jewish.

Doyle, who wore a Ravens hat, explained he wanted to cover his head, as in Jewish tradition, to offer respect to the community, especially for his wife's relatives who survived the Holocaust

"It's nice to feel part of the community," Jamie Doyle said. "When I first moved here 14 years ago, I felt very out of place. It's nice to know there are others in the community."

Soon, everyone gathered outside of the armory, sang a prayer and watched as Irv Koplovitz lit the first two flames on the large menorah.

The menorah will be up in Shamrock Park next to Bel Air Town Hall all week and Schusterman will turn on a light - electric bulbs and not candles - every night of Hanukkah.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad