PORTSMOUTH — More than 100 people amiably crowded the small courtyard of Temple Israel for the annual Interfaith Candle Lighting for Peace on Sunday.
For the past decade, the Portsmouth interfaith community led by members of the Portsmouth Ministerium has joined with Temple Israel to offer prayers for peace and to bask in the light of the Hanukkah candles.
This year’s Interfaith Candle Lighting for Peace had a special meaning. The candles will be lit, as has been the practice for the past decade, in the Hands of Hope sculpture in the Temple Israel courtyard. The sculpture was created by Sumner Winebaum, a longtime member of Temple Israel, who passed away in July.
Rabbi Ira Korinow, who has been interim Rabbi at Temple Israel for two years, led the services but was joined by ministry members from six other churches, Reverend Celestyne Bragg from New Hope Baptist Church, Reverend Jeffrey McIlwain from North Star AME Church, Reverend Frank Newsome of North Church, Chaplain Susan Walker of Beacon Hospice, Paris Khavari of the Portsmouth Bahai community and the Honorable Canon Mark Pearson of Trinity Anglican Church.
Each of the represented ministry spoke, all with a unifying message, that we need peace and clarity in the country and around the world.
“Peace does not mean only the absence of war,” said Korinow.
“It means a completeness, a wholeness,” said Korinow. “Peace to our country, our world and our humanity is what we call for. In the year 2020, which by the way also means perfect vision, our hope is for perfect vision and perfect peace.”
“I believe we are still good at heart,” said Newsome. “People long for peace rather than violence.”
Walker, in her prayer, said, “We are asking for peace in a time when the world is in conflict. Help us to listen and to understand. I pray for our world leaders. Give them wisdom.”
“We have been praying for warmer weather for tonight than it has been the past days,” joked Korinow. “We succeeded.”
Korinow talked about Winebaum, his service to the Temple and his art. He said his sculptures are displayed in many locations and are owned by individuals.
When we received the Hands of Hope in 2011, we began this interfaith service,” said Korinow. “We only light one candle tonight but we will light them this year to celebrate Sumner Winebaum.”
Korinow read a poem by an unknown poet. Titled “Not what I Get, What I give.” He said he read the same poem at Winebaum’s memorial services because it describes the good and upright human being, the mensch that was Sumner Winebaum.
For those who might not be familiar with the menorah lighting ceremony, Korinow offered a simple explanation.
“We light the candles from left to right,” said Korinow. “Each candle is treated equally because Hanukkah celebrates freedom. Equality in society can only happen with religious freedom. So, there is an important message in the way we light the candles.”
Following the lighting of the candles, everyone sang Hanukkah songs and returned inside to enjoy treats like kosher sufganiot and jelly filled mini doughnuts, which is a special Hanukkah sweet.