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Hanukkah celebrations begin in Halifax with lighting of menorah

A celebration at the menorah in Grand Parade Square was held on Thursday to mark the start of Hanukkah.  (Luke Ettinger/CBC - image credit)
A celebration at the menorah in Grand Parade Square was held on Thursday to mark the start of Hanukkah. (Luke Ettinger/CBC - image credit)

The first candles on the large menorah in downtown Halifax were lit Thursday evening to mark the beginning of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah, an eight-day celebration known as the festival of lights, comes amid war between Israel and Hamas.

"In a world filled with so much evil and so much negativity, the message of Hanukkah resonates ever so profoundly," Rabbi Mendel Feldman of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Maritimes said in his remarks at the annual event. The Hanukkah lights remind us not to despair or lose hope."

On Oct. 7, Hamas militants entered Israel, taking some 240 hostages and killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

Since then, Israeli forces have bombed and invaded the densely populated Gaza Strip. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said more than 17,000 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7, according to a report by Thomson Reuters.

Feldman said the attack two months ago was an attempt to destroy the Jewish spirit. He said coming together this holiday is especially significant given a rise in antisemitism, particularly on college campuses.

"Our students are constantly being targeted in the dorms, in the dining halls," Feldman said. "Yet in the face of adversity, there are many students who remain strong and proud of their Jewish identity."

Tyler Stern, a first year commerce student at Dalhousie University, said he's experienced anti-Semitism more than ever this fall on campus.
Tyler Stern, a first year commerce student at Dalhousie University, said he's experienced anti-Semitism more than ever this fall on campus.

Tyler Stern, a first-year commerce student at Dalhousie University, said he's experienced antisemitism more than ever on campus this fall. (Luke Ettinger/CBC)

The rabbi lit the large menorah in Grand Parade with Tyler Stern, a first-year commerce student at Dalhousie University.

Stern, who is from Montreal, said he's experienced antisemitism more than ever this fall on campus. He said police have been present for Shabbat dinners on campus that attract up to 60 students on Friday nights.

"When you hear a comment, you're not going to stoop down to their level," said Stern. "I've always been raised to be the bigger person.

"I think it's very important to celebrate just to unite everyone together."

Premier Tim Houston said he hoped Hanukkah candles burn bright to alleviate the darkness.

"You're welcome in this community," he said. "You are supported in this community, and as a province, and certainly myself personally as premier, I stand strong with Israel," said Houston.

Mayor Mike Savage has attended the event since taking office 11 years ago. He said the holiday is a time to remember those whose faith has often been tested.

"Hanukkah is also a time to remember and honour those whose faith has often been tested in times of great adversity," he said, noting also the tents in Grand Parade of those experiencing homelessness.

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