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In Greenfield, for the first time in decades, a Hanukkah menorah on the town common

On the town common in Greenfield, Massachusetts, adjacent to a holiday creche depicting the birth of Jesus, Jasper Lapienski stood in front of a giant menorah, a wooden candelabra-like structure he built from Douglas fir.

Using a long pole, he first lit the shamash, the center light of a menorah, and with that he lit the first night's "candle," with torch fuel to last about six hours, Lapienski said.

Noting there were enough people in observance, according to Jewish tradition, he then recited a Hanukah blessing.

"Congratulations, Greenfield! You have a menorah!," he said to a crowd of about 10 people.

Lapienski said he plans to do this every night, depending on the weather. On Wednesday, December 13, Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner and other officials will join him in the lighting.

Describing himself as Greenfield's only Jewish city councilor, Lapienski said he built the menorah — at more than 8 feet long and 8 feet high — upon request.

"We didn't have something like this in Greenfield. And so the rabbi asked me to do this and I've been consulting with him throughout," Lapienski said.

He was referring to Rabbi Chaim Adelman at Chabad House in Amherst.

Hanukkah — the festival of lights — marks an event that was considered a miracle by Jews when millennial ago, after the Maccabees battled the Syrians, a one-day supply of oil in a temple lasted eight.

The holiday has taken on multiple meanings in the United States, especially this year, as Israel's war against Hamas enters its third month.

The establishment of the menorah in Greenfield, and the lighting of menorahs around western Massachusetts, comes at a time of rising antisemitism in the U.S., according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Lapienski said he's not concerned. Given what's taking place in the Middle East, he said, he's concerned about people there.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
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