Mayor ‘brings light’ to city’s first public menorah

Walter Gray lights the first candle on the city's new symbol of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah.

Rabbi Shmuel Hecht of the Chabad Cente for Jewish Life and Living shakes hands with Mike den Oudeeu of the city's parks department after Kelowna's first community menorah was installed in Stuart Park Wednesday.

Rabbi Shmuel Hecht of the Chabad Cente for Jewish Life and Living shakes hands with Mike den Oudeeu of the city's parks department after Kelowna's first community menorah was installed in Stuart Park Wednesday.

In Hebrew, the word ‘mayor’ means bringer of light.

So it was fitting that Kelowna’s mayor was asked to light the first candle on the a public menorah in Stuart Park downtown Wednesday night.

“It’s a wonderful occasion to light this, the first ever (publicly displayed community) menorah at the beginning of Chanukah,” Gray told a crowd of about about 150 people braved the cold to gather for the public ceremony.

“It shows we are a diverse and tolerant community.”

He said the idea of displaying a large menorah in a city park first came up seven years ago when he was last mayor. But at the time it did not happen.

“Well, better ate than never,” said Gray.

After local MP Ron Cannan was asked to light the candle used to light the first of the nine candles on the three-metre high menorah, Gray climbed a small step ladder and did the honors. Because it was the second day of Chanukah, local businessman Mel Kottler, a leader in the local Jewish community, was asked to light the second candle.

The large menorah, located across the street from City Hall, only arrived here earlier in the day after being held up at customs coming in from the United States. It was then inadvertently sent to Vancouver instead of Kelowna.

But despite the delay, the lighting celebration went off without a hitch.

Both Cannan and Gray, as well as city manager Ron Mattiussi, were presented with small menorahs by Rabbi Shmuel Hecht as a token of thanks in helping make the display a reality on short notice. Hecht only contacted Mattiussi about the plan three weeks ago. Hecht also thanked city staff and work crews for getting the menorah installed in time for Wednesday night’s public ceremony.

To follow tradition, an additional candle will be light on the menorah each night during the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, which runs this year until Dec. 28.

The menorah is the second religious icon put up by the city this year. Earlier this month, it erected its annual Christian nativity scene a short distance away in Kerry Park.

In anticipation of other religious groups asking the city to allow similar displays in future, council has asked city staff to develop a policy setting out standardized rules for such displays.

 

Kelowna Capital News