In light of the horrible events in Israel, Chabad of Southern Mississippi aimed to provide comfort to Mississippi Jews with the very first Menorah lighting at the Capitol, attended by Governor Tate Reeves.
Across the world, Chanukah was more important than ever this year, to provide light, positivity and Jewish pride during this dark time. Mississippi was no different. While discussing their Chanukah plans for this year, Rabbi Akiva and Hannah Hall were trying to think of a way to provide the most comfort and the most Jewish pride to Jews across the state of Mississippi.
“On a whim I sent an e-mail to the Governors office. I presented the idea of a Menorah lighting, and shared how much it would mean to the Jewish community. At the same time give Governor Reeves an opportunity to stand proud with the Jews of Mississippi” says Hannah Hall.
It was only weeks later- one week before the proposed date of the event, the Governors office replied. “They were extremely eager to participate and wanted to help in any way they could to make it happen.” Rabbi Hall shares. With only a week until the event, Rabbi and Hannah Hall worked hard to create a flyer, and distribute it to local news and to Jewish communities across the state.
“The response was incredible.” Hannah shares, “It accomplished exactly what we were hoping it would. It created an immense Jewish pride for local Jews and a sense of comfort that our highest ranking official would show his support in this way.”
Even though the Halls live in Gulfport, the southernmost tip of Mississippi several of their community members made the 6-hour roundtrip drive to Jackson, Mississippi, the capitol. “A community member arranged for a 15-passenger seat van to drive from Gulfport to Jackson just for the event. We had about 20 community members from Gulfport who came, a few of which even arranged to stay the night so that they could attend with the long drive.” Said Rabbi Hall
The Menorah lighting was incredibly moving with over 100 people in attendance. There were plenty of sufganiyot, menorahs, candles and “Am Yisroel Chai” wristbands handed out, and a Dreidel man who went around offering gelt and dreidels too. Governor Tate Reeves spoke beautifully and was unwavering of his support of the Jewish people and Israel saying, “There are some people who would not want to see a Menorah lit, here at our Capitol. But in Mississippi we reject those thoughts, we reject those people, we reject their antisemitistm and we reject their hatred.”
Everyone left the Menorah lighting feeling inspired, supported and proud to be Jewish. The event was highly televised and covered in local newspapers in the days following and even those who were unable to attend in person were left with a feeling of pride for being a Jew in Mississippi.