TORONTO - Members of the Jewish community and police officers came together to celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah at 32 Division by lighting a menorah in front of the Division.
This is the fourth year that 32 Division, with one of the largest Jewish populations in North America, has held a menorah-lighting ceremony.
The tradition began when Sergeant Lawrence Sager asked why Superintendent Selwyn Fernandes was putting up only Christmas decorations. Fernandes accepted the challenge and secured a six-foot menorah for the Division.
TOP PHOTO: Sergeant Lawrence Sager speaks to those assembled for the menorah lighting
“I am a Jewish officer, and there other Jewish officers, and I wanted the community to know that we are sensitive to their needs and this is just an opportunity to give back to the community,” said Sager. “We want to make this a normal thing because we enjoy a very close relationship to the community, we have one of the biggest Jewish communities in North America and we don’t want them to only see us in times of despair but to see us celebrating a holiday with them.”
Rabbi Moshe Steiner who, along with Superintendent Fernandes, lit the menorah, said it was special for the community to celebrate Hanukkah with police officers.
Rabbi Moshe Steiner speaks to children gathered at the menorah
Rabbi Steiner said many Jews have been persecuted by their governments and police in other countries.
“To be in Canada, and to have the government and the police welcome us to their station and host and celebrate Hanukkah, is just an unbelievable experience for us because it is wonderful to be in a community where the police make this possible,” he said.
The Jewish holiday marks the triumph of light over darkness and the reclamation of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The eight nights of lighting the branched candelabrum represent the eight nights a one-day supply of oil miraculously lasted for a small band of Jewish people in 165 B.C., fighting to defeat the Greek army.
Other than lighting the menorah, another tradition is to eat oil-based food, such as latkes and sufganiyot (a form of doughnut), which were also served at the station.
After the lighting of the menorah, children and parents went to the garage of the station to see police horses, police cars and bikes, along with a craft table for children.
“It’s amazing to see police officers doing something which is not only protecting us but also being a part of the community during happy times,” said one of the visitors to the station, Allison Weinrib-Minuk, who came with her child and husband for the occasion.
Nearly 200 residents attended the first night’s lighting in front of the station at 30 Ellerslie Ave.
“The Toronto police enjoy a very close relationship with its large Jewish community, especially in 32 and 13 Divisions,” said Fernandes. “Celebrating and sharing a special event like this during joyful times offers young families a rare glimpse of their local police station and allows them to interact with the officers and explore many police displays.”
Sager and Fernandes spearheaded the celebration each year but officers on night shift are the ones who turn a new light on the menorah each night at dusk during the Festival of Lights, that runs until December 14, 2015.
“The officers have a great understanding of the religion and look forward to lighting the bulbs in proper sequence in accordance with the religious tradition,” said Fernandes.
Written by Sara Faruqi; Content in partnership with Toronto Police Services.