by Kerry Dougherty
A monthly street fair in Williamsburg is making national headlines for all the wrong reasons: over the weekend news broke that the organizers banned a rabbi from a menorah-lighting ceremony. Unless the rabbi would light the candles under a banner demanding a ceasefire in Israel, that is.
Which raises the question, what is WRONG with the organizers of 2nd Sunday Art and Music Festival in Williamsburg?
These fairs feature about 150 musicians, artisans and entertainers and until now appeared to steer clear of controversy.
Rabbi Mendy Heber of Chabad Williamsburg said he had already been a part of the festival, offering loaves of challah as a vendor, and that plans for the menorah lighting were suddenly scrapped last month.
According to Heber, the planning for the original event to be held Dec. 10 was well underway when organizers abruptly reversed course in November, informing him that they would not move forward.
“We had started the discussion and they showed extreme interest and excitement in moving forward with it” until they pulled back, he said.
In a text message, Shirley Vermillion, the organization’s founder, told Heber after consulting with the board that they would pass on his proposal in the interest of not “choosing a side” and that the organization did not want to appear to be “supporting the killing/bombing of thousands of men, women & children.”
On Sunday, the United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula spoke out against Vermillion’s decision, releasing a statement of what the group classified as a cancellation of the Hanukkah celebration.
Given current events in Israel and Gaza, the menorah lighting “seemed very inappropriate,” Vermillion said Sunday.
Since when does the lovely tradition of lighting the candles, in memory of the Maccabees and the story of how one day’s worth of lamp oil lasted eight days, show support for the “killing/bombing of thousands of men, women & children?”
In what world would that be “choosing a side?”
Are they insane?
Beyond the outrageous assumption that it is wrong for Israel to strike back against terrorists who invaded their country to rape, mutilate, torture and kill more than 1,000 innocent people and take more than 200 hostages, including tiny babies, drawing some sort of connection between menorahs and the current situation smacks of simple hatred of the Jews.
And it gets worse, according to the Press.
Vermillion also told Heber in a text message that board members would be OK with proceeding with the lighting if the event was held “under a cease fire banner.”
“Giving American Jews a political litmus test is just discriminatory, ugly and un-American,” Heber said. “Doing it with Hanukkah, which symbolizes liberty, is just ironic, especially during these difficult times, when Jews are facing a tremendous amount of antisemitism.”
Stupidly injecting politics into a beloved holiday ritual resulted in well-deserved rebukes from both the governor of Virginia and Jewish politicians.
On Monday Glenn Youngkin denounced the move on X:
Singling out the Jewish community by canceling this Hanukkah celebration is absurd and antisemitic.
The event organizers should immediately reconsider their actions and move forward with the menorah lighting.
Youngkin was joined in calling for the menorah lighting to go on by Eileen Filler-Corn, a Democrat and former Speaker of the House.
Yesterday, The Virginia Gazette reported that the rabbi was moving the ceremony to William and Mary’s campus on Thursday night, the first night of Hanukkah.
Given the ignorance of the organizers of 2nd Sundays and their obvious dislike of Jews, it might be better if everyone stayed away from this Sunday’s street festival.
Better yet, pray for rain.
Republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed and Unedited.