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Arts & Culture

This Chanukah, Jews and Christians are celebrating together

Mike Desmond

Thursday night, members of a Jewish synagogue on Sheridan Drive in Amherst lit another candle for the eight days of Chanukah, while a group of Christians guarded against anti-semitism outside.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
A group of Christians guarded against anti-Semitism outside the synagogue.

Rev. Kirk Laubenstein, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Justice, said he and others wanted to make those inside feel safe, in light of the synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh in October.

"Seems there has been an uptick in anti-semitic rhetoric which has actually turned into violence, which we've seen with Tree of Life," Laubenstein said, "and we're here especially during Chanukah to say Christian, Jewish, Muslim, whatever your faith tradition, they're all created in the image of love and no one should feel scared inside their sanctuary."

Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein presided over Thursday's service. The rabbi said he was in his son's kindergarten class Wednesday, using his wife's suggestion to tell the story of Chanukah to five-year-olds.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"A long time ago, there was a bunch of bullies who were Greek and they didn't want the Jews to be allowed to do Judaism, to be Jewish," Lazarus-Klein said, "and there was a group called the Maccabees that said, 'No. No. No. We want to be Jewish' and they defeated the bullies and they lit the menorah, and when they came to light their menorah, they didn't have enough oil. They only had enough oil for one day, but it lasted for eight days."

Pastor Bill Hennessy from North Presbyterian Church also was there. The synagogue and church are talking about their religious traditions, Thursday night at Congregation Shir Shalom for Chanukah and next week at North Presbyterian to talk about Christmas.

"Alex and I have done a lot of things together. Our congregations have done a lot together over the years and we decided we wanted to explore Chanukah and Christmas," Hennessy said. "So tonight, we're looking at Chanukah and then next week, we'll go to North and we'll look at Christmas so that folks from this congregation can learn a little bit more about what Christmas is."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.