A Virginia arts and music festival canceled a menorah lighting, arguing that it “seemed very inappropriate” in light of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.
The 2nd Sundays Art and Music Festival in Williamsburg, an event held each month by the non-profit organization Love Light Placemaking, canceled a menorah lighting scheduled to take place on Dec. 10, according to The Virginia Gazette.
Shirley Vermillion, the founder of the festival, explained in a statement that the 2nd Sundays festival is welcoming to all religions and cultures and that given the ongoing events in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas, the lighting of the menorah “seemed very inappropriate.”
A menorah, used on Hanukkah, has candles and nine branches that are lit over the course of eight nights. Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of one day’s oil lasting for eight days.
“The concern is of folks feeling like we are siding with a group over the other … not a direction we ever decide to head,” Vermillion explained.
Canceling a Chanukah celebration because of the war in Israel is antisemitism, plain & simple. We stand with @ujcvp as they fight back against this scourge and urge 2nd Sundays Art & Music Festival to reinstate the menorah lighting without precondition: https://t.co/tuemUz99QM pic.twitter.com/Y7K0MfW6Xt— The Jewish Federations of North America (@jfederations) December 4, 2023
Vermillion added the menorah lighting would not work as the festival had run out of space and adding another 30+ minute performance would not fit into the schedule of events.
“The Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula (JCVP) is shocked and alarmed at LoveLight Placemaking’s decision to cancel a menorah lighting scheduled for the Second Sundays Art and Music Festival on Dec. 10 in Williamsburg,” the JCVP wrote in a statement. “To be clear, the menorah lighting, which was to be led by a local community rabbi, had nothing to do with Israel or the conflict.”
LoveLight Placemaking’s decision to cancel the menorah lighting comes after several cities have announced cancellations of menorah lighting events. Members of the Havering Council in London reversed a decision to cancel the lighting of a menorah display after meeting with members of the Jewish community.
“The event organizer claimed that a Chanukah celebration would send a message that the festival was ‘supporting the killing/bombing of thousands of men, women, and children,’ – and even went a step further, by offering to reinstate the event if it was done under a banner calling for a ceasefire,” the JCVP added.
Hamas launched an attack on Israel on Oct. 7, leaving more than 1,400 people dead and more than 240 people taken as hostages. In the aftermath of the attack, Israel declared war on Hamas.
Most recently, Israel and Hamas resumed fighting after a weeklong truce agreement between the two resulting in more than 100 hostages being released by Hamas.
Roughly 14,800 Palestinians have been killed as a result of the fighting, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry claims.