WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town marked the beginning of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, on Sunday evening with the lighting of its first menorah.
Installed next to the Christmas tree on the lawn of the Williams Inn, the menorah was sponsored by the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce and celebrated by Rabbis Rachel Barenblat and Seth Wax, chaplain at Williams College. The Williams Inn offered hot cocoa to keep everyone warm.
Chamber President Richard Duncan said the chamber has heard requests in recent years to make the town's annual Holiday Walk celebration more inclusive.
"We had a little committee that was looking into it, and then I pretty much just ran with it," Duncan said. "Rabbi Seth [Wax] helped us pick out a couple of websites to look at, and I went and found [a menorah] that I thought would work well out here — a good height that everyone could see from everywhere."
Waxman joined Barenblat, on guitar, in leading a crowd of a few dozen in a song of blessing prior to the illumination of the town's first publicly displayed menorah.
"Even last year there were calls from people to have a more inclusive thing added to the Holiday Walk," Duncan said. "The Holiday Walk is not about any specific holiday. But a number of people do equate a tree to a Christmas tree, even though it's just lights on a tree. We just thought it was important to really bring us into this era where we are representing different types of people and have this big menorah down here that everybody can see coming down Spring Street."
Barenblat, of Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, then headed to City Hall to preside over the North Adams menorah lighting. More than a dozen people attended the lighting, held in the lobby this year.
The menorah had first been put up in 2018 and lighted annually in Dr. Rosenthal Square, across from City Hall. Mayor Jennifer Macksey said there had been difficulty in keeping the metal structure stable and lighted — and the weekend's snow would have made it hard to access.
Once again Andrew Zuckerman, Barenblat's son, pushed the button to "light" the first candle on the menorah. It is fully automatic and a candle, or light bulb, will come on at the same time each day for the eight days of Hanukkah.
The rabbi and her son lead the group in singing blessings and the mayor passed out small gift bags of chocolate gold coins and a tiny dreidel.
Barenblat noted, prior to the lighting, that the city had installed its menorah in response to the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and now, with anti-Semitism on the rise, there are two public menorahs in North County.
Jewish Federation of the Berkshires has joined ShineaLighton.com, a national initiative to spotlight modern forms of anti-Semitism and its dangers, and to promote advocacy through social media engagement during Hanukkah. The federation hosted a community menorah lighting on Sunday night at The Mount in Lenox.
Barenblat explained that the Hanukkah story was about two miracles: the defeat of Syrian King Antiochus who ruled Jerusalem and outlawed Judaism, and the how the small amount of consecrated lamp oil "lasted as long as we needed it to" during the rededication of the Second Temple.
The uprising of the Maccabees against Antiochus isn't in the Hebrew scriptures, she said, but rather the "light of hope, the light of Holiness, the light of having enough, feeling that we are enough" is the tradition that has kept going "and kept us going."
According to Proverbs, Barenblat said, "the candle of God is the human soul."
"Unless our lives would be endangered, we're supposed to put the menorah in a window," said the rabbi, pointing to the menorah placed prominently in the large window next to the Christmas tree. "To put it in a place where people can see it where they can see that we are letting our light shine. And we do this by lighting and blessing candles — or in this case light bulbs. ...
"May these Hanukkah lights proclaim the miracle that we are still here and may the light of our souls illuminate the world in all the ways that it most needs."
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 email@example.com.
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.
Adams COA, Town Seek Funds for Memorial Building Bathrooms
By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff
ADAMS, Mass. — The Council on Aging is still waiting to transition its programming from the Visitor Center to the Memorial Building and is looking to the Community Development Department for help.
The COA has been waiting for additional bathroom facilities to be completed for the facility, but the council and the town have so far been unable to obtain grant or other funding for the work.
COA Director Sarah Fontaine said they are working with Community Development to find funds for the bathrooms and other small improvements, including increased entrance accessibility, renovations to the former music room and fixed windows.
"I had voiced my concern. It's a very extensive list, I don't expect that it will all be done before we transition over. The only need is the bathrooms," Fontaine said.
At last week's Board of Selectmen meeting, Community Development Director Eammon Coughlin said he looked into using Community Development Block Grant funds for the project. He said, however, that the Memorial Building is ineligible.
"The guidance we received from [the state Department of Housing and Community Development] has basically told us that the building is ineligible for funding because we already received funding in 2018," he said. "There has to be five years between the application for senior-center type projects. So based on that guidance, I don't believe Memorial School is eligible for funding."
Fontaine also mentioned the auditorium in the building, which the town plans to renovate separately as a future capital project.
"It would be nice as a senior center to have the auditorium available for guest lectures and other things like that," she said.
Moving staff to the Memorial Building now while keeping programming at the Visitor Center, Fontaine said, is not an option. She noted that the Hoosac Valley Regional School District had previously expressed interest in using the second floor of the Visitor Center for its office space.
"I was very firm in saying, logistically, it's hard for us to manage things just being upstairs. It's going to be very difficult if we're off site to try and manage programs downstairs," she said.
In other business:
The Council on Aging is looking for volunteers to fill vacancies on its advisory board. It filled one of the vacancies on Wednesday, appointing Barbara Ziemba. Ziemba, an active participant in the COA, had already filled out the paperwork needed for her appointment.
"I have attended many COA activities, volunteer, and am a member of the Friends of the Council on Aging and attend meetings. I have been interested in being a member of the Board of Directors for some time. Please consider my appointment to the board," Ziemba wrote, explaining in her paperwork why she was interested in the position.
The group also discussed two other vacancies on the board and potential candidates to fill them. Two members have been unable to attend recent meetings for health reasons.
The board voted to approve updated bylaws. The bylaws were revised and written primarily by Board Member Elizabeth Mach.
"I just wanted to make a comment, or rather an appreciation, for Liz for taking this project on," Fontaine said.
The new bylaws have a provision to allow honorary members. Fontaine said there are currently no honorary members.
The board appointed Bruce Shepley as the board's chair to replace Barbara Lagowski, who filled one of the now vacant member seats.
Emergency responders and officials from across the county came to the former Memorial School building Saturday morning to participate in active shooter and hostile event response (ASHER) training. click for more