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12/05/2023 12:52 PM

Elizabeth Meyer: Lighting the Holidays

On Dec. 7 at 6 p.m., for the first time ever in Old Saybrook, a menorah will be lit and a celebration will take place to mark the first night of Hanukkah. The idea came to fruition thanks to Old Saybrook resident Elizabeth Meyer.

Two years ago, Elizabeth was driving back home to Old Saybrook and passed through the town of West Haven when something caught her eye.

“I saw they had a big menorah lit up on their green and it stirred something in me. I don’t know how many Jewish families there are in West Haven, but I know we have over 70 in Old Saybrook,” Elizabeth explains.

While many towns over the next few weeks will host Christmas celebrations, far fewer hold Hanukkah or celebrations for holidays from other faiths.

Elizabeth decided to do something so that Jewish people in the Old Saybrook community could feel welcome and see their faith celebrated as well.

On Thursday, Dec. 7, the first night of Hanukkah, everyone in the Old Saybrook community is invited to join in a celebration as a menorah on the green is lit. There will be refreshments available as well as music. Following the first night, the electric candles on the menorah will be lit each of the remaining seven days.

Hanukkah, sometimes called the Festival of Lights, commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem where, according to traditional accounts, Jews rose up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors who had outlawed the religion. The lighting of the menorah symbolizes the miracle of the candles lit for the rededication burning for eight nights despite there only being enough oil for one night. Traditionally, the holiday is celebrated with food, games, and gifts in addition to lighting the menorah.

For Elizabeth, getting the town to recognize the holiday in addition to Christmas has been something she had wanted to pursue for a while.

“I’m not even that religious personally but I do care about my heritage and, though this was in the works before, it took on even more importance after the events of October 7th,” Elizabeth says.

“I just thought about how I live in this beautiful community and I thought it would be great to recognize those of the Jewish faith in town and to show that people are free to recognize all faiths in town,” she explains.

Additionally, Elizabeth hopes the display will inspire people to come together in hopes of making the world a better place.

“I think we’re in a moment in time where we need to come together and hope for a better future and make the world a better place for everyone now,” she implores.

Elizabeth first approached the town about adding a menorah last year, but there wasn’t sufficient time to get the approvals in place in 2022.

Instead, she went to a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting in September 2023 to make sure all the approvals were in place for this year, and she said the commission was onboard with the idea.

Next, Elizabeth asked Rabbi Yaffe of Chabad of the Shoreline to procure and install the menorah, which was also done. “The Chabad generously supplied the menorah,” she says.

Old Saybrook will now join shoreline towns like East Haven, Branford, Guilford, North Haven, and Killingworth in hosting menorahs.

Elizabeth originally grew up in New York City but has lived in Old Saybrook for 32 years. “It’s a great community to raise a family in. I raised three kids here,” she says.

In addition to living in Old Saybrook, Elizabeth is also an active member of the community as a member of the Garden Club and the Rotary Club.

In her spare time, she likes to keep busy playing tennis, skiing, doing yoga, and by being a triathlete.

Asked her favorite part about Old Saybrook, Elizabeth remarks on the natural beauty of the town. “I love the sunrises and sunsets here.”