The City of Coral Gables had its official Menorah Lighting Ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 6, at Ponce Circle Park. The event was co-sponsored by the Chabad of Downtown Coral Gables and Aronfeld Trial Lawyers.
Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason, Rabbi Avrohom Stolik and other dignitaries attended, and the event also featured a live klezmer band, performance by celebrity cantor David Presler, Hanukkah crafts for the kids, hot potato latkes, doughnuts, dreidels and chocolate gelt (coins).
“It’s wonderful to have a Hanukkah celebration and menorah lighting ceremony in Coral Gables,” Rabbi Stolik said before the event. “This is our 13th year, our Bar Mitzvah year, that we’re doing this annual event. It’s a wonderful community event. People come out and we have the Hanukkah spirit.”
He said it was particularly meaningful in Coral Gables because it once was a restricted area for Jews.
“The fact that we can light the menorah publicly here is wonderful, especially today when we’ve recently experienced some dark moments around the world and in the United States,” the rabbi said. “Our motto is, ‘we fight darkness with light,’ and by lighting the menorah we bring light to this world. We look forward to a time when the world will be filled only with light. Each one of us should do our part, light our menorah and bring more light to this world.”
Mayor Cason lit the shamash (or servant) candle at the center of the menorah following the presentation by Rabbi Stolik.
Dr. Barry N. Burak of Affiliated Healthcare Centers then lit the candle for the first day of Hanukkah. Dr. Burak explained what it meant to him to participate in the ceremony.
“What it means is that I’m part of a community that’s here for our people,” Dr. Burak said. “Our people need a home and Coral Gables is a home. Lighting the menorah here for Hanukkah is a big deal because not only is it Hanukkah but now we have a new facility for Chabad in Coral Gables. It’s a beautiful facility and we have a new home. We’re very happy to be here in our community.”
Mayor Cason said he was pleased to attend the ceremony and reflected on the past.
“We’ve been doing this here for 13 years and I’ve been doing this for five years in a row,” Mayor Cason said. “Since it’s a ceremony of rededication it’s a good time to look back at the whole question of tolerance, diversity, internationalism and on the 90th anniversary of Coral Gables, when we had George Merrick, who was way ahead of his time in terms of being an internationalist, creating villages that celebrated the good things that come from all parts of the world, and building homes not only for the rich but for the middle class, deciding that small business could be a part of the community.
“He really understood the need for community building and tolerance,” Cason added. “You look around the world today at all the intolerance. He was the guy who gave up his own money and his own land for some of the 35 churches we have. It’s a great place to be. We’re a very tolerant, cosmopolitan international city, although we didn’t always used to be.”