Light Begets Light . . .

by S. Olidort - KHERSON, UKRAINE

December 8, 2002

Millions of television viewers nationally watched last Friday’s public Menorah lighting ceremony in Lenin Square. Kherson’s Jewish mayor, Vladmir Vasilevitch Saldah, officiated at the ceremony that drew some 2,000 people for an event that left a former member of the Russian KGB overwhelmed: “How did you manage to obtain a permit for the Menorah?” he asked Kherson’s Chief Rabbi Yitzchok Wolff, incredulously.

Saldah’s opening address expressed amazement at the resurgence of Jewish life in the Ukraine. “The lighting of the Menorah here in Kherson is yet another phase in the progress of our town towards modernity,” he said, noting that for the first time, “Kherson, like all other cities of the Western world, is recognizing the importance of freedom through observing a holiday that epitomizes the ideals of independence.” The lighting of the gigantic menorah at Lenin Square says Rabbi Wolff, “illuminated the souls of thousands of Ukrainian Jews, and gave them a strong sense of Jewish pride.”

In fact, its impact was felt well beyond the Jewish community, and one viewer—the mayor of the neighboring city, Nikolaev, felt his own city got short shrift. So the following night mayor Nikolai Petrovitch contacted the local Rabbi Sholom Gottleib and requested to meet with him immediately. To Rabbi Gottleib, who had worked unsuccessfully to get municipal permission for a public menorah lighting ceremony, this seemed to provide an opportune time to raise the subject. Much to his delight, it was Petrovich who raised the subject saying, “Why don’t we have a Chanukah celebration here like they have in Kherson?” He had watched it on television and thought it a spectacular event. With Petrovich on the case, Chanukah 2003 will give Nikolaev its due, along with Kherson and hundreds of cities worldwide hosting grand public Menorah lighting ceremonies.

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