Shared menorah brings Beach congregations together

Everyone who gathered in Kew Gardens for this year’s Chanukah celebration saw a minor miracle involving a very unlikely power — the Electrical Safety Authority.

For some 30 years, members of the Beach Hebrew Institute have lit the same electric menorah at Kew Gardens to ring in Chanukah, the Jewish holiday also known as the Festival of Lights.

Made of wood, the menorah was put up on a tree close to Queen Street. One by one, its lights were switched on to mark each night of the eight-day holiday.

But less than a week before this Chanukah, the congregation was told their menorah did not meet ESA safety standards, and could no longer be used.

To keep the Kew Gardens tradition going, members of Chabad-Lubavitch of Danforth-Beaches lent their own menorah for the Dec. 20 lighting, and joined in a shared celebration.

Gary Bercovitch, president of the Beach Hebrew Institute, right, smiles as a menorah shared by Chabad-Lubovitch of Danforth-Beaches is lit at Kew Gardens on Dec. 20. After about 30 years, Bercovitch said his congregation was surprised to find their own menorah couldn't be used because it didn't meet the electrical safety requirements. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Gary Bercovitch, president of the Beach Hebrew Institute, right, smiles as a menorah shared by Chabad-Lubovitch of Danforth-Beaches is lit at Kew Gardens on Dec. 20. After about 30 years, Bercovitch said his congregation was surprised to find their own menorah couldn’t be used because it didn’t meet the electrical safety requirements.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

Speaking on behalf of Chabad, Rabbi Sholom Lezell said both congregations would like to see a new menorah made for Kew next year.

“We’d like to build one for this event, for this space in the city, so it will be a permanent fixture, every single Chanukah, for eight days,” he said.

“Thank God we were able to get a nice menorah up this year – it’s a little Chanukah menorah miracle, as they say.”

Adam Kline, 13, lights the Menorah. A crowd of people gathered on Dec. 21 in front of Toronto Fire Station 227 for the lighting of the Menorah. The gathering was preceded by a tour of the firehall and hot chocolate and was organized by the Chabad Jewish Centre in the Beach. PHOTO: Phil Lameira
Adam Kline, 13, lights the Menorah. A crowd of people gathered on Dec. 21 in front of Toronto Fire Station 227 for the lighting of the Menorah. The gathering was preceded by a tour of the firehall and hot chocolate and was organized by the Chabad Jewish Centre in the Beach.
PHOTO: Phil Lameira

Some people at the lighting questioned the short notice given about the safety issues, including local Beaches-East York MPP Arthur Potts.

“It should have been done a year ago,” said Potts.

For his part, Gary Bercovitch, president of the Beach Hebrew Institute, said he was never too thrilled with the way the previous menorah hung up on a tree, which meant climbing a ladder to light it.

He has since asked local city councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon to give the Beach Hebrew Institute a role in designing a new menorah for the event.

While it may have been last-minute, Bercovitch pointed out that the menorah shared by Chabad actually fit nicely with Chanukah tradition.

In the original Chanukah miracle, the Maccabees saw that they only had enough oil to light for one day, but miraculously it lasted eight days, giving them enough time to rededicate the Holy Temple.

Powered by a battery pack, the borrowed menorah at Kew Gardens flickered on and off, more like the oil lights it represents.

“I think God moves in mysterious ways,” said Bercovitch, noting how this year’s unique Chanukah celebration brought people together.

“We got something very, very positive out of this whole thing.”


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