“Last year, the city held a joint Christmas/Hanukkah celebration here” District 7 Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera told a small crowd of about 50 people at the New Tampa Recreation Center in Tampa Palms, “but this year, I thought it made sense to do separate Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations in New Tampa.”
Viera said that this year, in light of the Israel-Hamas war that began in October, he asked the city to give New Tampa’s Jewish residents their own celebration of the “Festival of Lights” on Dec. 11.
“But, what was really heartwarming was how many people who attended the event weren’t Jewish, but were there to support their Jewish friends and learn more about Hanukkah.”
The candle-lighting ceremony was led by Tampa Palms residents Tracy and Steve Falkowitz, who told the story of Hanukkah and the significance of the nine-candle menorah. Lighting the candles were girls from Tampa Gymnastics & Dance Junior Showstars. Also speaking were Viera and Cindy Spahn from Tampa Jewish Family Services. In addition, on hand were Tampa Parks & Recreation interim director Tony Mulkey, a Rabbi from the Tampa Torah Academy and a representative of the Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center.
“I wanted to show support for our Jewish friends, who are still reeling from the Hamas invasion of Israel,” Viera said. “The city stands against the recent increase in anti-Semitism throughout the U.S., even as it supports people of all religions, cultures and races.”
Attendees also got to tour the Rec Center (17302 Commerce Park Blvd.), which was buzzing with activity.