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Buckhannon’s 2023 Menorah Lighting Ceremony draws the largest crowd since its inception

BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon’s annual Menorah Lighting Ceremony had its best attendance this past Thursday, bringing out about 100 attendees.

The city’s menorah lighting took place on Dec. 7 – the first night of Hanukkah – at Jawbone Park. Organizer of the menorah lighting, Daya Masada Wright, said she started offering a public Menorah Lighting Service in 2018.

“My family had been placing the menorah in Jawbone Park for approximately five years; however, I decided to convert it to a public event following the Tree of Life Massacre in Pittsburgh because the community was very overt, and people reached out to my family in support of my faith and in opposition to antisemitism,” Wright said.

“Several people asked what they could do to make it clear that our community is not just tolerant but inclusive, so I decided to make it a public event and give others the opportunity to show up and have an educational moment and a celebratory moment,” she added.

During the first public ceremony, Wright said about 62 people attended, but the 2023 lighting had 100 people participate.

“Last night was the first night of Hanukkah; Judaism follows a lunar calendar, not a Gregorian calendar, so it began at sundown [Thursday night], and I have traditionally always had the public lighting on the first night of Hanukkah,” Wright said. “On the first night, you light the shamash, and then you use it to light one candle, and then on the second night, you have the shamash and two candles, and the third night, you have the shamash and three candles, so our joy is ascending throughout the holiday.”

Wright plans to leave all eight candles through the end of December.

In addition to organizing the public menorah lighting ceremonies, Wright has traveled throughout the Buckhannon-Upshur school system, teaching about Hanukkah since 1999.

“I think it’s important, particularly in such a homogenous community, that we have the opportunity to explore the world and see others,” Wright said. “This is a community of great, strong faith, primarily Methodist faith and the Christian faith, which utilizes the Old Testament just as Judaism does, so this is an opportunity to see the way other people interact with their faith.”

Wright said she wants to share Hanukkah with the entire community because of its message of joy.

“I have been in preschools, college classes, local churches, and I’ve just always tried to be as educational and available as possible to people who were curious about the celebration because Hanukkah is a holiday about joy and freedom, so it makes sense to want to be surrounded by the people that we love and admire in this community, our friends, our family and my daughter’s classmates,” Wright said.

Celebrated for eight consecutive days, Hanukkah reaffirms the ideals of Judaism and commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem by the lighting of candles on each day of the festival.

The lighting ceremony may be viewed on Channel 3 Buckhannon’s YouTube channel for people who could not attend.

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