With the annual lighting of the menorah in West Hartford Sunday came a timeless message of good overcoming evil.
On the second night of Hanukkah, hundreds of festive celebrants gathered in Blue Back Square to watch the Chabad of Greater Hartford, a community of observant Jews, light an 8-foot-tall menorah made of ice. The "fire on ice" celebration was the ninth annual lighting, said Rabbi Joseph Gopin, director of the Chabad House of Greater Hartford.
Getting together as a community "inspires us for the rest of the year," he told the crowd.
"At the time of Hanukkah a mighty nation attacked Israel," he said. "A small group of people decided not to give up. They purified the temple. They rededicated the temple."
"We live in a time of coldness and darkness and chaos in the world," Gopin said. "This is the light of God, the light of Hanukkah."
The annual winter holiday, known as the festival of lights, celebrates the victory by Jews in the second century BC against the Greeks, reclaiming and rededicating their temple in Jerusalem. Each of the menorah's eight candles — one for every night of Hanukkah — is lit nightly.
The Blue Back gathering included activities such as building a 50-pound Lego spinning top known as a dreidel, face painting and coloring dreidels.
Aviana Schwartz of West Hartford was organizing a demonstration for children to build the supersized dreidel.
"To give away a day of time to come to this event every year since I was a little girl and participate in the Blue Back Square Hanukkah event has always just made Hanukkah so much more meaningful," she said.
"When you kindle a flame, it sparks something else," she said of the lighting of the menorah's candles.
Traditional Hanukkah food — latkes, or potato pancakes, and donuts were sold. Pincas Schreiber, who was selling the kosher donuts brought to Connecticut from Brooklyn, N.Y., said the menorah lighting is to publicize "the miracle of Hanukkah."
Unfortunately for the ice menorah, the moderate temperatures unusual in late December will soon leave it in ruins.
"It will last for the evening," said sculptor Samuel Sannie of Easton, Mass.