A special ceremony of light in the heart of what was once one of Ireland’s largest Jewish communities was beamed live to New Zealand at the weekend.
The ‘Evening Echo’ ceremony in Cork’s Shalom Park began at sunset on Saturday to mark the last night of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.
Nine park lamps, which symbolise the candelabra used in Hanukkah, were lit at intervals. They remained lighting for several minutes before falling into darkness for another full year of the Jewish calendar.
Fred Rosehill, the chairman of the trustees of the Cork Hebrew Congregation, says the ceremony is of enormous sentimental and emotional significance for the city’s declining Jewish population.
“It brings back memories of when we had between 40 and 50 families living in Cork,” he said.
“When a light goes out, it symbolises the disappearance of our community from the city of Cork.
“But the re-lighting of the lights every year symbolises the hope that some of our community may return and re-establish a community here.”
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the second century BC.
The festival takes place at a different date every year because it is based on the Jewish calendar.
It is observed by the kindling of one of the lights of a unique candelabrum — a nine-branched Menorah — over each night of the holiday, until all the lights are lit.
Saturday’s ceremony in Shalom Park was devised by renowned New Zealand artist Maddie Leach and staged for the first time last year.
It was streamed live over the internet to the Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts in Auckland, New Zealand, where it is being featured in an exhibition.
The ceremony was managed by the National Sculpture Factory and Cork City Council, supported by the Cork Hebrew Congregation and Bord Gáis. Special technology is used to manage the lighting sequence to tie in with the Jewish calendar. It is designed to take place every year for the next 50 years.
A Jewish community established itself in Cork in 1881 in the area now known as Jew Town. But Mr Rosehill said he can count on two hands the number of Jews connected to the city’s synagogue.
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