Rochester, NY — Precisely at 3 p.m. Friday, Rabbi Nechemia Vogel lit a menorah at Washington Square Park in downtown Rochester, signifying the start of Hanukkah.
“We’re doing this for the whole community,” said Vogel, Rabbi of Chabad Lubavitch on Winton Road in Brighton. “The message of Hanukkah is to take the celebration to the public. There’s something very universal about Hanukkah, about religious freedom.”
The menorah lighting was one of several in Monroe County on Friday, the first day of the Jewish holiday, which continues through Dec. 23. Other menorah lightings were at Twelve Corners in Brighton; at the Medley Centre mall in Irondequoit; at the Wegmans store in Pittsford Plaza; and at the Jewish Community Federation on East Avenue.
A few people were at the event at Washington Square Park. A communitywide menorah-lighting event will be at 7 tonight at Washington Square Park. Mayor Robert Duffy is scheduled to appear.
Vogel said the menorah lighting is typically done on the first day of Hanukkah, but said Friday’s event would be difficult for people to attend because Friday is the Jewish Sabbath.
Rob and Natalie Jacobs of Fairport were at Friday’s ceremony with their children, Natalie, 5, and Jennifer, 3.
“It gives us a sense of connectivity to be here,” Jennifer Jacobs said. “We don’t have a temple or church that we belong to, but my husband was raised Jewish. This provides us the opportunity.”
Also at Washington Square Park were Todd and Tammy Hill of Rochester.
“We’re not Jewish, but our daughter is dating a Jewish guy, so we’re trying to understand the Jewish faith,” Tammy Hill said.