Rabbi, councilwoman praise religious freedom at Manhasset menorah lighting

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Manhasset's menorah lighting attendees lit Hannukah candles with the "torch of unity." (Photo by Teri West)

A flame juggler kicked off Manhasset’s community menorah lighting last Wednesday, and latkes and jelly donuts concluded it.

In between, the sun set as town officials and Rabbi Mendel Paltiel praised the nation’s religious freedom as scores of people clutched Hannukah candles lit by a communal torch.

The event at Town Hall is an annual one for Manhasset and the town, and this year was the first in collaboration with the new Chabad of Manhasset.

Both the chabad’s Rabbi Mendel Paltiel and town Councilwoman Lee Seeman spoke about the value of the First Amendment, referring to October’s massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue and the death of former President George H.W. Bush.

The day of the lighting coincided with a national day of mourning for Bush.

“I thank God that we live in a country where religious freedom is a cornerstone of our democracy,” Seeman said.

Paltiel, who founded the Chabad of Manhasset in October with his wife, Sarale Paltiel, had similar thoughts.

“Standing at this location facing the Town Hall, surrounded by our elected leaders on a day honoring the life of one of our presidents, we celebrate the blessing of freedom our country gives us,” he said. “Hannukah’s message is that a little light dispels a lot of darkness.”

Event attendees beyond area residents included government and district officials and representatives of the Nassau County Police Department, Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department and Northwell Health. Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman and Seeman lit the menorah.

Irma and Irving Greenbaum, who live in Great Neck, were eager to discuss the importance of events that maintain cultural tradition as families around them feasted on latkes and jelly donuts.

“It’s a recognition,” Irving Greenbaum, 93, said. “If we don’t go, it dies out and it’s gone and these kids coming up don’t know anything about it.”

The two used to host Hannukah parties with around 40 people and 32 pounds of potatoes, they said. Since they’ve concluded their gig, Manhasset’s lighting was a welcome alternative.

“What you hear and read is terrible, and you see people here being kind and doing something that’s good,” Irma Greenbaum said. “I think that’s wonderful. You have to support goodness.”

As the crowd cleared out, the Paltiels reflected on what they considered a successful gathering.

“I’m just so lucky to have this great community, and we are so lucky to feel the real union through each other here,” Sarale Paltiel said.

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