Each year, the Village of Island Park and the South Shore Jewish Center bring the community together for the beginning of Hanukkah with a menorah lighting.
Residents and congregants gather around a 5-by-10-foot menorah on the Village Green, and community leaders light the first candle of the eight-pronged fixture representing the eight days of Hanukkah.
Forty years ago, a former SSJC Men’s Club president, the late Bernard Ross, donated the menorah to the village. He enlisted help from friends and local merchants to construct it. Many attended the dedication ceremony in 1979, including Mayor Michael Parrente, State Assemblyman Armand D’Amato and U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato.
Ross died in 2016. At this year’s lighting, on Dec. 22, the community will dedicate a plaque to him and affix it to the menorah.
“Those who remember him realized this is something we should’ve done many years ago,” said Irwin Goldenberg, a past SSJC president and an old friend of Ross’s. “It was his diligence and fervor to have us represented on the holidays with the menorah. He’s the one who got it done.”
Ross was a longtime Island Park resident who owned a jewelry business in town. Goldenberg described him as a hard-working, creative person who made his own jewelry designs, and noted that he moved to Island Park around the same time as Ross about 60 years ago.
Ross was also dedicated to the Island Park community, helping with fundraising events, Little League and other volunteer efforts.
“[Ross] was an outstanding, wonderful, generous community-minded man,” Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty said. “I grew up with his sons and adore his family. He gave his time, love and financial support to the children. His legacy continues to brighten our village. We celebrate him at Hanukkah and always.”
Ross had “a mission to erect a menorah in Island Park so the celebration . . . could be performed publicly in the village,” his son, Dr. Peter Ross, wrote in a letter to the Herald.
The menorah lighting remains an important community event. “It really is a beautiful time of year,” SSJC Vice President Steve Michelson said. “With the menorah lighting, we want to give that special feeling you get during Christmastime, but for congregants of our faith.”
After the 5 p.m. ceremony, attendees are welcome to join the congregation for latkes and jelly doughnuts at the temple.
“His memory and legacy will now be permanently linked to the menorah in Island Park,” Ross’s son wrote. “After his retirement and eventual relocation to Florida, he passed peacefully on Dec. 25, 2016 — corresponding to the 25th day of Kislev — on the first day of Hanukkah, after the first candle on the menorah had been illuminated that year.
“A well-deserved rest,” he wrote, “with his life’s work completed.”