In light of recent mass shootings and acts terrorism, one rabbi in Poughkeepsie is calling on believers to be a candle and bring light to the world.
“Whether it’s Israel, Paris, France, or even California, wherever these terrible tragedies have happened, what’s our message?” Rabbi Yacov Bornstein asked of the crowd gathered for a menorah lighting ceremony on the Walkway over the Hudson at sunset Sunday to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah. “Yes, we’ve got to combat evil, and the police and army have to subdue the people causing it, but what can we do? We’re not fighting them. We light a candle. We have to do acts of good. Each one of us is a candle — a burning candle that will never get extinguished.”
Bornstein, who leads the Chabad of the Mid-Hudson Valley based in the Town of Poughkeepsie, brought his own light to the ceremony — literally — when he drove up to the crowd on the Walkway in a silver Toyota minivan with a giant menorah strapped on top. He had just finished speaking at the Poughkeepsie Galleria where more than 100 people had gathered for prayer.
“A little candle brings so much light and it dispels all the evil,” he said before the ceremony.
Bornstein led the group in prayer and songs in Yiddish, encouraging even the non-Jewish Walkway ambassadors to join in. Soon the entire crowd of 20 people was dancing, laughing and holding hands.
Tamara Ross of Poughkeepsie said she wasn’t planning on attending the ceremony, but she was glad she did. She had passed by the menorah while on her daily walk on the Walkway and decided to stop.
“It is absolutely beautiful out here at the Walkway at sunset, and the rabbi was fantastic as always,” said Peter Menken of Stormville, who brought his family to see the giant menorah lit over the middle of the Walkway.
A candle will be lit each night of Hanukkah on the Walkway this week at around sunset, Bornstein said. A nine-foot menorah will also be lit during a ceremony at the Performance Motor Cars at 1401 Route 9, Wappingers Falls, at 5:30 p.m. Monday night, he said.
“You have a room that is full of darkness, and you open the door and you put a little candle and the whole room gets lit,” Bornstein said. “So the message for us is very simple. We must be — all of us — we have to be a candelabra. We have to shed light, give light, do good things, and make this world a creative place, where God’s presence can be felt, and this true for all kinds of religions.”