Thousands of Detroiters gathered at Campus Martius after a virtual-only event in 2020.
Menorah in the D on Sunday represented a Chanukah miracle all around, not only for the holiday itself, but for journalist Danny Fenster’s homecoming two weeks after being freed from jail in Myanmar.
Fenster, Huntington Woods native and managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, helped light the Chanukah candle on the giant menorah. Fenster said he’s doing great and is thankful to be back home with family.
“I can’t imagine a better community to come home to,” he said. “It’s just made an already great, joyful situation even more joyful. I’ve just had a lot of love and appreciation back home here in Detroit and Metro Detroit, in the Jewish community and the wider community. It’s just been incredible.”
Fenster was grateful that lighting the menorah capped off what the last two weeks have represented, a homecoming.
“It’s great. It’s one of several communities that have shown incredible support, and if they want to honor me, that’s humbling, and if I can help them by participating, I’m happy to do that,” he said. “To see the support all over the world, it’s just been humbling and filling me with gratitude.”
Thousands of Detroiters gathered at Campus Martius celebrating the first night of Chanukah, with gratitude in the air after last year’s virtual-only event due to the pandemic.
Mendel Pinson, an 11th grade student at Lubavitch Yeshiva, dressed in dreidel costumes with his peers and danced the night away. Pinson is happy they could return to celebrating in-person.
“It’s the perfect timing, Chanukah is the time of spreading light and warmth and that’s really what we’re doing today. We’re spreading joy and happiness,” he said.
Dignitaries from all over attended this year’s event, including Attorney General Dana Nessel, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Michigan State Sen. Jeremy Moss, Oakland County Executive David Coulter, MI Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, State Rep. (MI-37) Samantha Steckloff, State Rep.(MI-39) Ryan Berman, Federation CEO Steve Ingber, Federation President Matt Lester and NEXTGen Detroit President George Roberts.
Justice Bernstein and Ingber were lamplighters along with Fenster.
State Sen. Moss said Fenster’s return is a miracle, fitting of the holiday.
“Today is the culmination of a miracle, a miracle for many reasons, number one that Danny’s home,” Moss said. “The second miracle is for the whole Fenster family, an incredible display of organizing, communicating and getting everyone together. We are all an extension of the Fenster family because of your efforts to keep this amplified, to keep it going and to keep the story out there in every corner of the world.”
Rabbi Asher Lopatin, JCRC/AJC executive director, said returning to celebrating Chanukah in-person means a lot to him.
“It means that Chanukah is alive, still meaningful and that there is still light and hope,” he said. “Whether it’s a holiday of shining light on the good or some of the issues we have on antisemitism, the holiday is still sparkling after thousands of years.”
Rabbi Lopatin was grateful to be celebrating Chanukah with Fenster and his family and agrees Fenster’s return is a Chanukah miracle.
“It shows that our prayers are heard, we prayed for him in synagogue that God should release those who are captive, and it’s amazing when you realize there’s hope, things can change, and you can go from the abyss of an 11-year sentence to freedom,” he said. “And this holiday really is about freedom of religion and freedom to speak the truth.”
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