PORTSMOUTH — A 9-foot-tall menorah will be displayed at Strawbery Banke later this month on the first night of Hanukkah, allaying concerns about placing it in Market Square.
City Manager John Bohenko and Mayor Jack Blalock called the compromise a “win-win.”
“It satisfies everybody’s request in the appropriate way,” Blalock said during the city council meeting on Monday night.
Last month, Rabbi Berel Slavaticki of the UNH & Seacoast Chabad Jewish Center in Durham asked that a menorah be placed in Market Square during the eight days of Hanukkah.
Portsmouth has a large holiday tree in the square every year, and Slavaticki said he wanted to “add more lights and spread more goodness and kindness in the world.”
Rabbi Ira Korinow, who is on the board of directors for Temple Israel in Portsmouth, wrote to the city council on Nov. 20, asking that the city deny the Durham center’s request. He said the temple has a Hands of Hope menorah in front of its synagogue on State Street.
Korinow told councilors that Jewish law and tradition mandate the lighting of Hanukkah candles in homes and synagogues to “celebrate and publicize the miracles that took place nearly 2,200 years ago when the Jews successfully fought for religious freedom.”
“We feel that religious observance belongs on our property and not in the public square. This belief is shared by the majority of American Jewry,” Korinow wrote.
In the meantime, officials at Strawbery Banke Museum have been working with the Chabad Jewish Center to participate in a menorah-lighting ceremony there.
The Shapiro House at Strawbery Banke was home to Abraham and Sarah Shapiro from 1909 to 1928. They were Russian Jewish immigrants; today their home is part of the learning experience for those who visit the Puddle Dock community.
During the annual candlelight stroll, which takes place on Saturdays and Sundays for the next three weeks, a costumed role player recreates the scene of Sarah Shapiro preparing a Hanukkah celebration in her kitchen.
The public menorah lighting at Strawbery Banke will be held on Dec. 22 at 4:30 p.m., Blalock said.
Slavaticki’s request last year for a menorah display in Durham was denied, leading to a lengthy discussion about that town’s holiday tree-lighting tradition. Changes were made and now Durham will hold a Frost Fest this Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. on Main Street.
The Durham tree, which grows in Memorial Park, will be lit in advance of the event to avoid any appearance that Durham promotes Christianity.