Every year, Downtown Plaza in Salisbury becomes a testament to the power of fellowship
With an estimated population of about 300 Jewish families, Salisbury holds a unique place in the Maryland record books: It has the largest outdoor Chanukah menorah in the state. Proudly lit on the Downtown Plaza each year, it is a shining testament to the vision of the merchants who in 1985 came together to create it.
According to local businessman Gary Kleiman, who helped lead the effort to have it constructed, many of the Plaza store owners at the time were Jewish. He approached each with the proposal that they share in the cost of building a menorah to decorate during the holidays.
“Chanukah is the story of a miracle,” and what happened next was pretty amazing,” said Kleiman. “A group of non-Jewish store owners heard what we were doing and offered to contribute. They said that for years the Jewish shop owners had been contributing to the cost of the Christmas decorations, and it was only fair they help with the menorah.”
The funds were raised; the county Vo-Tech class built the menorah; and the rest was history. Today, members of the Jewish community gather on the first night of Chanukah to say the special prayers and sing songs about the miracle of the holiday, and it continues to glow for the next seven nights, a testament to the power of fellowship.
So What Is Chanukah, Anyway?
At its heart, Chanukah is a story of hope and perseverance. Starting in 190 BCE, the Jews of Judea were under siege by one force and then another. During this time, the Greeks, who then ruled the area, tried to crush the Jewish people. The Temple, which was the center of Jewish life, was desecrated.
In 166 BCE, a Jewish dynastic family called the Hasmoneans and their followers stood up to their oppressors. A major battle for the fortress that guarded the Temple took place. Against all odds the smaller Jewish force won, and they began setting the Temple to rights.
Legend has it that they found only one small flask of uncontaminated oil in the Temple. It held barely enough to light the Menorah for one day; it would take eight to produce more. Then a miracle happened: The oil lasted eight days, until it could be replenished, and the Festival of Light was born.
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