Not many years ago, in many parts of the world, a Hanukkah celebration like the one on Nov. 29, at Palm Coast’s European Village, would not have been possible.
“Throughout our history, to celebrate Judaism openly was very difficult,” said Rabbi Levi Ezagui, of Chabad Jewish Center of Palm Coast. “Today, in 2021, living in America, we have the ability to practice freely. We are very honored, very happy that we are able to spread the light. That’s the idea of the menorah: that a little bit of light can push away the dark.”
"We are very happy that we are able to spread the light. That’s the idea of the menorah: that a little bit of light can push away the dark.”
RABBI LEVI EZAGUI
About two-thirds of Ezagui’s congregants are immigrants, he said, and many remember having to light menorahs in hiding as children.
“Today, they can proudly say, 'Happy Holiday,'” Ezagui said. “It will always motivate me.”
One attendee, Greg Feldman, remembers celebrating Hanukkah as a child in Chicago, where he would hear stories from family members. “Several were concentration camp survivors,” he said. “Their faith was something they could hold onto even in the darkest times.”
Another attendee, Margaret Vidal, said, “God gives us the light of the world, and this is the time of year when the light comes out. God does miracles every day.”
“The holidays spread the cheer and beauty of being Jewish. In Chabad Palm Coast, we are huge on joy.”
Eric Levine said Hanukkah traditions are some of his earliest memories. He recently lit his menorah at home — the same menorah his own parents used to light.
"My parents are gone, and a lot of those traditions are not as readily available because families are more dispersed now," he said. His faith, he added, “keeps me grounded and gives me something to pass down to my son."
Before speeches by Ezagui, Sheriff Rick Stay and Mayor David Alfin, who lit the first light on the menorah, hundreds gathered under strings of lights to enjoy a festival of latkes, doughnuts, train rides and a petting zoo. Val Krayter also helped light the menorah; he owns Palm Coast Pharmacy and sponsored the event. A comedy act and music and dancing followed.
Ezagui’s wife, Tzivie, said, “The holidays spread the cheer and beauty of being Jewish. In Chabad Palm Coast, we are huge on joy.”