Community leaders join in Hanukkah celebration

The Colorado Statesman

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock joined elected officials and leaders of Colorado’s Jewish community to help light the first Hanukkah candle at Allied Jewish Federation’s public menorah in southeast Denver on Dec. 20.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, arrive at the community menorah lighting ceremony at the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado offices. McNulty was among a group of legislators who recently returned from a trip to Israel.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Before ascending the steps up the scaffolding beneath the Chabad Lubavitch of Colorado menorah, Hickenlooper told a crowd at the corner of Alameda and South Dahlia Street that the holiday has special meaning these days in Colorado.

Elected officials line up behind singing children to mark the first night of Hanukkah at a menorah-lighting ceremony on Dec. 20 in southeast Denver. Officials taking part in the celebration include Denver Councilwoman Robin Kniech, state Sens. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, and Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, Denver Councilman Chris Herndon, state Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, state Reps. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and Sue Schafer, D-Wheat Ridge, and Denver Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“Hanukkah means ‘dedication,’” Hickenlooper said. “Many people call Hanukkah the Festival of Lights, but it’s also called the Festival of Dedication.” When a night’s worth of oil miraculously lasted for eight nights, he said, it should remind Coloradans that dedication can make a difference.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock celebrates the first night of Hanukkah on Dec. 20 at the Chabad Lubavitch of Colorado menorah in front of the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado offices in southeast Denver. After climbing the scaffolding behind him, Hancock joined Gov. John Hickenlooper lighting the candle on the menorah. State Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, Denver Councilwoman Susan K. Shepherd, state Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, and Denver Councilman Chris Herndon are among the elected officials joining Hancock on stage.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“It’s a miracle for all of us to be here at this time of year to recognize how much we do have, and yet how many others are suffering, and trying to find ways to lift them up and make sure their families have a warm and happy holiday as well,” he said.

Standing atop the scaffolding constructed by Barry Karp, left, are Rabbi Richard S. Rheins, senior rabbi of Temple Sinai and current President of the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who are celebrating the lighting of the first candle of Allied Jewish Federation’s community menorah as dusk falls on Dec. 20 in southeast Denver.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Hancock said he agreed with Hickenlooper’s point. “What a great opportunity it would be to sprinkle some oil on a lot of things we’re dealing with every day,” the mayor said. He added that he was overjoyed to join in the Hanukkah celebration — “one that celebrates courage, one that celebrates religious freedom, one that celebrates all of our rights to honor, celebrate and worship the way that we chose.”

Recently returned from a trip along with other lawmakers to Israel — sponsored by the Federation — House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said he learned some important lessons on his journey.

“What we learned was that Colorado and Israelhave so much in common. Standing in the Negev Desert is much like standing in Grand Junction looking over the Bookcliffs. The issues there are the same that they are here — they don’t have any water,” he said. “But we learned how, with dedication, with entrepreneurship, they’re able to overcome the challenges that they face in a very hostile part of the world.”

The lesson, he said, was clear on the first night of Hanukkah as the community gathered to celebrate: “We have the opportunity to share what we have in common and not focus on that which divides us.”

Nancy Gart, the Federation’s coordinating council chair, introduced dignitaries and underlined the importance of the ceremony. The Federation, she said, “is dedicated to sharing the lights of Hanukkah across our community, in Israel and around the world throughout the year. Through Federation, we share the light of hope, the light of justice, the light of understanding and the light of faith.”

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com