The Festival of Lights got brighter Monday night when members of the Schneerson Center for Jewish Life invited the community to join their celebration of Hanukkah.
The largest menorah in town stands in front of Compo Acres shopping center on Post Road East, and on Hanukkah's fifth night, its electric lights were replaced with oil lanterns, which were lighted by Rabbi Levi Stone.
"It's about bring the community together to celebrate this wonderful holiday," he said.
About 20 people were on hand to share in music, dance and traditional Hanukkah foods, including latkes and doughnuts.
"The traditional foods are doughnuts and latkes because the doughnuts and latkes are fried in oil," said Chanie Stone, explaining the symbolism of the oil lantern that burned for eight days. Hanukkah, which is a Hebrew word meaning "dedication," began at sundown the day before Thanksgiving this year.
Shoshana Hecht was among the celebrants. "It brings community together and people become more aware and tap into their Judaism," she said of the menorah lighting. "It's very important."
"I love it," said Clarisse Levine of Westport. "It's life. Light is life and that's our reminder."
"This is the seventh lighting," Rabbi Stone said, the center having done similar celebrations in other nearby towns, including Greenwich, Wilton and Weston. "But next year we have to do eight, because there are eight nights in Hanukkah."
"It's great to go out and reach people in Westport, Wilton, Weston and Norwalk," said Boruch Hecht, "spreading the joy of Hanukkah."
"This is a very special holiday," Rabbi Stone told the gathering. "It teaches us how to take the warmth and the goodness ... and the sweetness of light (and) to share the warmth, share the happiness, share the sweetness."
Chanie Stone explained that giving geld to the children is a way to teach them about being charitable. "When you give your child geld ... that promotes the learning and understanding of being charitable and being generous," she said.
She said the history of the dreidel, a holiday toy, stems from Jewish children trying to study Hebrew without the knowledge of their oppressors. She said soldiers would ask, "Are you studying the Torah?" to which they could reply, "No, we're just playing with these tops."
Stone said the menorah lighting was dedicated to Rabbi Menachem Scheerson.
Stone thanked the shopping center owners, Equity One, as well as the neighboring stores, for hosting the menorah for another year.