4:39 p.m. PT Dec. 23, 2016
Nine feet tall, seven feet wide and weighing in at 250 pounds — Salem just got its own public menorah.
Cities across the country and world have public menorah’s displayed during Hanukkah, including one outside the White House in D.C. and the largest menorah displayed in New York.
Traditionally, menorahs are lit for the eight days of Hanukkah, which begins on Saturday this year.
“It is not about a religious symbol in a public space,” said Rabbi Avrohom Perlstein with the Salem Chabad Center for Jewish Life. “The menorah is universal.”
In 1989 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that menorahs, along with Christmas trees, are “secular symbols of the winter season,” rather than endorsements of a specific faith.
For Perlstein, getting a menorah in Salem has been a six-year project.
“I didn’t want to do this without the participation of the community; I’m not a rogue Rabbi or something,” he said. “(I knew if we were approved), we’re be joining thousands of other U.S. cities.”
Mayor Anna Peterson and Mayor-elect Chuck Bennett voiced their support for the menorah this year.
Perlstein and others at the Chabad Center worked to obtain the proper city permits and soon enough, they were on their way.
Perlstein and a group of volunteers set up the menorah Friday morning on city property at the corner of Trade and Commercial streets SE.
“It’s not just the Jewish community that can benefit,” Perlstein said. “The message (of the menorah) is one of religious freedom and victory over oppression and tyranny.”
The center will be lighting the menorah at a public event Wednesday, December 28 at 6 p.m. City councilors, the mayor and other local figures are expected to attend.
For more information, contact the Chabad Center for Jewish Life at 503-383-9569 or go online to jewishsalem.com.