Cranford Becomes a Festival of Lights for Hanukkah

(above) Rabbi Paul Kerbel speaks at TBEMC’s community Hanukkah party on November 30, 2021

Cranford 2021 Hanukkah Celebration

Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim (TBEMC)

Cranford celebrated Hanukkah in 2021 with multiple events that brought light and joy to the township.

Temple Beth El Mekor Chayim (TBEMC) held a family community Hanukkah party on its front lawn Tuesday night, November 30, 2021, drawing a crowd of more than 125 for dancing, donuts, and the lighting of the temple’s new outdoor menorah. Local DJ, The Spinners, kept the crowd moving with Hanukkah music, pop songs, and games. “We really wanted to invite the community to share in our holiday traditions,” said Jessica Suckerman, who co-chaired the event with Andrew Feldman and TBEMC Rabbi, Paul Kerbel. “We loved seeing so many people celebrate with us.”

On Wednesday night, December 1, 2021, The Union County Torah Center-Chabad held its annual menorah lighting downtown by the gazebo. Rabbi Levi Block of Chabad said the tradition dates back more than 20 years. Mayor Kathleen Prunty lit the first candle, followed by Rabbi Kerbel leading the audience in the traditional Hanukkah prayers. Following the lighting, a festive hora dance broke out, with Cranford Police Department Chief, Ryan Greco, among the participants. Guests then enjoyed the customary sufganiyot (jelly donuts).

“We were thrilled to light our brand-new Cranford Hanukkah menorah this year. The previous one was so well used we needed to replace it, and we thank all the Cranford residents who contributed towards it.” said Rabbi Block. “We have a long tradition of celebrating Hanukkah together with the Cranford community, and we look forward to this every year.”

Several local businesses commemorated the holiday. Pastosa Ravioli kicked off the season with a Hanukkah canned food drive on
November 21, 2021, with Rabbi Kerbel greeting and thanking donors in person. Other businesses, like Sweet ‘n Fancy Emporium, offered
Hanukkah-themed products, while Track 5 Coffee donated hot cocoa to TBEMC’s party.

“Downtown Cranford strives to host events that bring our community together while also supporting our local businesses that are the heart of our downtown.” said Caren Demyen, Downtown Cranford Director. “In 2020 we did a dreidel and menorah painting class with Fire Me Up Studio to celebrate Hanukkah, and it went so well that we wanted to add more activities. Many of our businesses were thrilled to be part of the festivities, and we were happy to partner with other organizations in town.”

The Jewish holidays are based on a lunar calendar, and Hanukkah came early in 2021, right after Thanksgiving and concluding at sundown on Monday, December 6, 2021.

“Hanukkah is a holiday that reflects on Jewish traditions and values, but at the same time, is a universal holiday that teaches religious freedom, sensitivity to our country’s many minorities, and the promotion of diversity and equality.” said Rabbi Kerbel. “TBEMC has been part of the Cranford community for more than 100 years, and we are honored to share our traditions with our friends and neighbors here. Seeing people gather together smiling and dancing was wonderful. We appreciate that our Cranford community is always willing to support us and these celebrations.”

Photos by Andrew Feldman

(above) Cranford Police Chief Ryan Greco joins in a festive hora dance with Rabbi Kerbel of TBEMC and Rabbi Block of Chabad
(above) Cranford Mayor, Kathleen Prunty, lights the downtown Cranford Hanukkah menorah on December 1, 2021.