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Hanukkah Celebrates Religious Freedoms

A contagious Hanukkah spirit was alive and thriving in Weston on Thursday night for the lighting of the town menorah at Weston Shopping Center.

Scores of residents danced and sang traditional tunes while a pair of musicians jammed on saxophone and keyboard. The crowd also took turns refueling with hot latkes provided by the Schneerson Center in Westport.

"Just a few years ago we weren't able to light menorahs in our own homes," said Rabbi Levi Stone of the Schneerson Center. "We thank God for having a government that allows us the freedom to have this day."

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein joined Stone to light the shamash, or servant candle, which Stone used to light the menorah. In the Jewish tradition, the lighting of the menorah is the central mitzvah, or holy commandment, of the Hanukkah festival.

Rabbi Yehoshua Hecht of Beth Israel in Norwalk ignited the crowd with his gregarious energy and held everyone's attention while he addressed the relevance of religious freedom.

"We are here to celebrate reason, understanding, acceptance and peace. ... You don't fight darkness with a stick, you fight it with light," he said just before Stone ignited the oil-fueled menorah.

Selectman Dan Gilbert also joined the celebration. "It's wonderful to see religion in a public place," he said.

Scott Bruckel recently moved to Weston from Norwalk with his wife and 3-year-old daughter, Hannah. "So far, [Weston] is a friendly place," he said. "There's a lot of generosity here. ... This is a great time to get kids together and celebrate with neighbors."

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