Mercer Island community gathers for Hanukkah celebration

Menorahs are placed at Mercerdale Park.

About 200 community members gathered at Mercerdale Park to celebrate the Hanukkah season on the evening of Dec. 2.

After last year’s event was canceled due to the pandemic, Chabad Mercer Island Director and Rabbi Nissan Kornfeld said people returned to the park for the largest menorah-lighting crowd in the event’s five-year history. It was the second gathering at Mercerdale.

“It was beautiful. Getting the community together, especially after not being able to have a in-person community celebration last year, really meant everything,” said Kornfeld, whose chabad is dedicated to spreading Jewish awareness and education.

Smiles were in abundance from the attendees, from youngsters to grandparents. “It was great to see the next generation involved. It was very celebratory,” the rabbi added.

In addition to holding a candle-lighting ceremony and placing a 12-foot-high public menorah at the park, ice carvers sculpted a 6-foot-high menorah on Dec. 2. The larger menorah is on display throughout the Festival of Lights from Nov. 28-Dec. 6, and the ice menorah stood for one night only.

“The public Hanukkah celebration is about sharing this light and joy with the broader community and the entire Mercer Island,” said Mushka Kornfeld, co-director of Chabad Mercer Island, which offers Jewish education, outreach and social service programming for families and individuals of all ages, backgrounds and affiliations.

Rabbi Nissan explained that the universal message of the Hanukkah menorah emphasizes light over darkness, right over might and the ability to have religious freedom.

He noted that the celebration locks into what America is all about: “The opportunity for the individual, that pursuit of meaning and value. Just the idea that starting with one candle — even when it’s dark outside. Each night adding another candle and to be able to come together in numbers to celebrate that means everything.”

Outdoor communal celebrations of the Jewish faith date back to 1973 when the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, launched a worldwide Hanukkah awareness campaign.

“Now it’s hard to find a city that doesn’t have one in the greater Seattle area. So it’s fantastic that we were able to do this locally on Mercer Island and have such a good response,” Kornfeld said.