Mayor Thomas Bernard, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, Paul Marino and Drew Zuckerman on Sunday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Young Drew Zuckerman confidently climbed the ladder Sunday evening and reached out to take part in a major historical event: lighting the city's first menorah.
"It's time to do something we've never done, that's to celebrate Hanukkah here," the 9-year-old declared, and threw his arms into the air to applause. "To Hanukkah."
The Jewish community has been an integral part of North Adams for more than a century, but not until Sunday, the start of the eight nights of the Festival of Lights, did Hanukkah become part of the city's holiday celebrations.
"It will stand here in the city, a symbol of light in a time of darkness, and as we gaze upon its light, may our hearts be lightened in this year and in years come, may we feel the joy of knowing that this is a city that welcomes all of its inhabitants and celebrates with all of its inhabitants," said Rabbi Rachel Barenblat of Congregation Beth Israel and Drew's mother. "What a tremendous gift this is, what a remarkable place we are in."
Mayor Thomas Bernard said the question had arisen about recognizing Hanukkah. City Hall has had a small menorah in the lobby for a number of years but after speaking with Barenblat about what would be appropriate, the decision made to order a large public menorah.
"This is the first and we didn't know what to expect and I was thrilled with the turnout and the energy," he said.
Some three dozen people attended the lighting at Dr. Arthur O. Rosenthal Square near City Hall. Local historian Paul Marino described it as a "major historic event."
The smaller Jewish community had been respectable but looked down upon, he said, but it was the House of Israel, the precursor to Beth Israel, that had been the first to "extend the hand of community friendship" to the Methodists when their church burned down in 1929. Not the Baptists, nor the Catholics, nor the Episcopalians, but rather the temple had offered its sanctuary for as long as the Methodists needed it.
"This is the very first time ever that North Adams is coming together as a community in saying to its Jewish population, 'you are our neighbors, you are our friends and we are so happy and proud of that fact that in the middle of celebrating our holiday, Christmas, we want to help you celebrate your holiday, Hanukkah."
Christmas celebrations can be somewhat overwhelming, said Barenblat. "It's easy to feel like people don't see us ... having this menorah right here in the middle of town says to me, North Adams cares about the Jewish community and wants us to feel welcome."
Hanukkah is not a major Jewish holiday although it has become more prominent because of its proximity to Christmas. It marks the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after a revolt led by the Macabees against Seleucid Empire control around 165 B.C.E. The legend is that there was only enough oil to light the menorah for one day but it lasted eight. There are nine candles on a menorah, including one to light the others. Each night during Hanukkah, one candle is lit.
"It is a holiday about light in the darkness and hope even when it seems all hope should be lost and I think that resonates with our neighbors of other faiths as well," the rabbi said.
The congregation's President Christina Kelly thanked the mayor and said the event was "very meaningful to our community."
"I feel like we've gotten a lot of support from the wider community with all the anti-Semitism that's been happening around the country and the world," she said. "It just means so much that we have the support of those who are not Jewish."
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
Comments are closed for this article. If you would like to contribute information on this article, e-mail us at info@iBerkshires.com
Drury Graduate to Direct Horror Film in North Adams
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Drury High School graduate is hoping to bring his dream — or, more appropriately, his nightmare — to film life.
The horror film "The Uncredited," written by Nick Burchard, will be filmed in North Adams this spring, pending fundraising and the COVID-19 pandemic. Burchard's Tiny Viking Productions is making the film in conjunction with Sancha Spiller and Kasey Rae of Skylah Productions of New York City.
"I grew up in the area, and I've always appreciated the historical places, in particular the Hoosac Tunnel, Mohawk Theater, and the old mills," Burchard said. "I think North Adams has a very unique setting, with the mountains surrounding the city and of course, all the steeples.
"The Uncredited" follows a young woman who appears in an independent film. While watching it, her friends notice something disturbing in the background of her scene. This leads to rumors and distrust in even the closest group of friends.
"My goal is to make great characters, and even though it's a spooky thriller the characters in it are just friends sitting down to watch a movie together," Burchard said. "They crack jokes, roast each other, and are all collectively trying to have a good time … but that juxtaposed with the realization that one of them might be hiding something is what creates the thriller edge to this. I think it's really fun."
Spiller added that the film does not rely on horror tropes such as jump scares. She said the screenplay is character-driven.
"It showcases our greatest fear of not knowing the people around us as well as we think," she said. "It makes us second guess who we trust and remember that just being in the wrong place at the wrong time can have horrifying consequences."