November 26, 2019 submitted by Kristen Grossman & Thomas N. McNamee (photos courtesy of Kristen Grossman)
Beloved holiday tradition lights up historic downtown with lampposts and an inclusive spirit
The Hingham Downtown Association’s decades-old tradition of fully sponsoring the beautification of downtown streets for the holiday season, as well as Christmas in the Square, for the first time begins this year to reflect more of the diversity of religious traditions and practice in Hingham, as its festive adornments mark a new cooperation with our Jewish friends and neighbors.
This fall, an effort to upgrade and refresh the decorative materials for the lamp posts lining the streets gave rise to an “Adopt-a-Lamppost” fundraiser attracting contributions from businesses as well as individuals and families in the community. All eighty available lamp posts were “adopted” via a donation of $100.00 each, and safe assembly of the decorated lamp posts was ensured by a generous donation of time and effort from the Hingham Municipal Lighting Plant staff. The Hingham Downtown Association embraced the idea of Seasonal inclusivity and decided to decorate eight of the eighty lamp posts with white garland, blue lights, and a “Happy Hanukkah” greeting in celebration of the Jewish holiday that is nicknamed the Festival of Lights, and in recognition of religious pluralism in our town and our country. The eight-day holiday (Hanukkah this year falls December 22-30) commemorates the historical rededication of the Jerusalem Temple in the second century B.C. after the Jewish Maccabees, fighting for their own religious liberty, defeated the Greek rulers. The story is that according to the customs and rituals there was sufficient oil to be lit for only one day, yet, the oil in the Temple menorah lasted for a miraculous eight days, by which time the new oil could be prepared. The traditional Hanukkah menorah, a familiar seasonal display in public and in private, contains eight daily candles (plus a ninth “starter” candle), thus, eight lamp posts seemed appropriate.
The eight Hanukkah lamp posts were adopted by Hingham’s own Congregation Sha’aray Shalom, whose community consists of nearly three-hundred families from Hingham and surrounding towns.
The Congregation’s early years as Temple Beth Am saw use of borrowed spaces around town for services until the synagogue on Main Street was constructed and dedicated in 1980. Marking sixty years in Hingham in 2019, the Congregation celebrates its tradition of an “open door, welcoming every family member — Jews by birth, Jews by choice, and non-Jewish family members — and striving to integrate them into the community. Echoing the temple’s mission statement that the strength of its community draws on a commitment to honor and respect the diversity of its members’ backgrounds, Cantor Steven Weiss offered, "We are honored to be part of the communities celebration. For 60 years Congregation Sha'aray Shalom has been an active part of this community. We are thrilled to have been asked to be part of the lamp post project and look forward to all of the community enjoying the Festival of Lights. May these lights shine brightly for all of us in the holiday season."