More than 50 people gathered in a tightly packed, round Baltimore City Hall Dec. 23 to light the Baltimore City Hall menorah and honor nine local Jewish leaders.
When Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young was City Council President he collaborated with Jewish Uniformed Services Association of Maryland (JUSA) to hold the first menorah lighting in 2014. The tradition has thus continued, according to Betsy Gardner, deputy director and city wide Jewish liaision to the Mayor’s office of neighborhoods.
“The Mayor decided this year to create a Shinning Light Award to honor men and women throughout Baltimore City who are unsung heroes,” she said. “These people give tireless[ly] back to the community in different capacities and ways and in which he wanted to take time to showcase in the true meaning of Chanukah their dedication to our great City.”
As two people on tall stilts and dressed like dreidels spun around the room, photographers, policemen, and city politicians took their seats. Gardner took the podium to welcome the crowd to the ceremony. The Cheder Chabad of Baltimore’s choir performed a cheerful dreidel song, and
then Young began to award the celebrated leaders. Young gave the first Shining Light Award to Stacey Goldenberg, “for her work for children and families” at Tivka House in John Hopkins’ Hospital, which is a residence for Jewish families receiving support from the hospital. The next Shining Light Award went to Neil Meltzer, for his work as president of Sinai Hospital.
Next, the mayor recognized Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin for her commitment to the city’s environment, Molly Amster for her direction of the local chapter of Jews United for Justice, and Adrienne Blumberg for her dedication to Hatton Senior Center. Sgt. William Currie was honored for “helping Jewish facilities be safe” as city wide Jewish liaison at the Baltimore City Police Department, and Upper Park Heights composer Dr. Jonathan Leshnoff for his Grammy-nominated composition in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day. The mayor also honored Rabbi Chesky Tenenbaum, founder of JUSA, for his service as chaplain of the Baltimore City Department.
Finally, the wife of late Jeffrey Raymond, Beth Raymond accepted an award for Raymond’s transparency as department of public works spokesperson. before he died in October.
Beth then lit a candle in his honor. Young turned on the first menorah light in honor of veterans, and Chani Tenenbaum turned the second on for the New Jersey massacre victims.
The regional chabad chaplain, director of Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, then came to speak on the importance of Chanukah,
“Weren’t we just here yesterday?” He asked the mayor, chuckling. “I think that’s an essential part of why we’re here. Chanukah is an eight day festival. Why make it an eight day festival? One day is enough!” he joked.
“The way that goodness works in this world is by repetition. There are times we do something positive to help someone,” he continued, “OK we’ve done something, but in order to make it effective, to have a lasting impact, we must do it again and again and again. There are times we don’t see what we’ve accomplished, a small little act that no one knows about,” he said but when we look at the menorah, “one little light enables another little light.”
“Ultimately, goodness, the holiness of this world, will change the world for the better,” Kaplan said.
Finally Young and Tenenbaum rededicated the City Hall Menorah. The ceremony closed cheerfully with the crowd clapping along to the boys’ choir again.
CORRECTION 12.26.19 4:07 P.M.: This article originally misspelled Stacey Goldenberg’s name as Stacey Goldberg. The JT apologizes for the error.