Cape Coral Chabad celebrates first night of Hanukkah

Hanukkah is underway weeks after the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States. The 11 congregants who died at the Tree of Life synagogue shooting this year in Pittsburgh are in the hearts and minds of members of the Jewish community. The holiday is special for local congregations in Southwest Florida, the lighting of the menorah representing religious freedom.

The Chabad Jewish Center in Cape Coral lit its grand menorah Sunday night to begin the eight-day Festival of Lights.

“The Syrian Greeks oppressed Jewish people and didn’t allow them to celebrate or keep their traditions,” Chabad Rabbi Yossi Labkowski said. “Jewish people fought back, and it was miraculous how they won.”

In light of the tragedy that happened in Pittsburgh this year, Labkowski said this Hanukkah is special.

“We want to encourage our brothers and sisters to come out and show that nobody should oppress us,” Labkowski said. “We live in a free country, and it’s important to celebrate.”

The Cape Coral community gathered to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah. Russell Krakaw said the light is needed.

“To bring together the community to show that Judaism is not a horrible thing,” Krakaw said. “It helps swallow out any of the evil at the shooting at Pittsburgh.”

Krakaw said the Jews have fought back against hate throughout history, and this shooting won’t change anything.

“We’re going to stand up against oppression,” Krakaw said. “And we’re rising above the tragedy, so that’s why it’s also very important to celebrate.”

Rabbi Labkowski said the celebration of Hanukkah is the perfect time of year to bring the community together.

“We want to show that everybody has a right to practice what they believe is fit,” Labkowski said.

Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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