9/11 Solidarity Hanukkah Menorah Marks First Steps toward Bringing Light Back to Ground Zero

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Designers Michael and Bonnie Berkowicz created a menorah that honors the past and looks to the future of Ground Zero.

9/11 Solidarity Hanukkah Menorah

9/11 Solidarity Hanukkah Menorah

We created this Hanukkah menorah in solidarity with 9/11.

As the final Hanukkah candle was lit on the menorah they designed to honor both the past and future of Ground Zero, as well as the men and women who protect that space, Bonnie Srolovitz-Berkowicz and Michael Berkowicz couldn’t help but be reminded of three things: rededication, solidarity and history.

The Dec. 27 ceremony at 7 World Trade Center, on the last night of Hanukkah 2011, was a homecoming of sorts for Bonnie and Michael.

In 1981, a young designer named Bonnie Srolovitz was honored to be asked by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to create the first Hanukkah menorahs for the lobbies of the World Trade Center twin towers. Then, in 1990, the team of Srolovitz and Michael Berkowicz was commissioned to create two new Hanukkah menorahs for the same tower lobbies.

For those pieces, the two designers and artists sought to capture the architectural essence of the towers, eventually creating two 7-foot tall menorahs using stainless steel, brass and marble. Annually for 10 years, those unique menorahs were lit for Hanukkah in both World Trade Center buildings. Then came 9/11, and of course the menorahs were part of what was lost when the towers came down.

Now, in 2011, the Shomrim Society, the Jewish police officers’ fraternal group within the Port Authority, decided it was time to bring the light back to the World Trade Center site. They turned once again to the now-married Bonnie and Michael Berkowicz to bring this vision, a first phase of this rededication, to fruition with the 9/11 Solidarity Hanukkah Menorah.

Their creation, constructed of vertical aluminum elements symbolizing the twin towers, with the American flag formed from woven strips of patinated copper and brass, gives the piece color as well as implied longevity. The candles, made from LED lights that also are known for their longevity, bring a contemporary element to an ancient tradition.

In 2011, then, thanks to the collaboration between the Berkowicz design team and the Shomrim Society, for the first time since 2000, a small ray of light once again triumphed over darkness.

“We created this Hanukkah menorah in solidarity with 9/11,” Bonnie said. “The design makes reference to the verticality of the two lost towers, with the American flag woven in to tie the tower elements together.” Michael added, “This menorah reminds us that our strength comes from being a community united – just like the strength of the menorah’s structure comes from the interwoven elements of the flag.” Further, the design of the menorah is meant to show that “individuals, as individual threads, may be weak, but when woven together as a united community, they become strong.”

“This menorah is meant to stand tall and proud and victorious, a testament to the memory of the past and our hopes for the future,” Michael continued, adding that “ceremonial objects like menorahs have, for thousands of years, been used to enhance and bring meaning to celebrations, and this Hanukkah menorah is one of these special objects.”

The ceremony was both celebratory and reflective. The shamus candle was lit by Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, while distinguished members of the Shomrim Society, introduced by Society President Sgt. Scot Pomerantz, lit the other candles on the menorah.

In addition, Rabbi, Capt. Sarah Schechter, a chaplain at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., was honored and presented with an American flag that flew over Ground Zero by Police Officer Joshua Maarleveld. Her presence brought special meaning to the ceremony; the Air Force chaplain had called a recruiter the day after Sept. 11 to begin the military enlistment process.

Twenty-one hundred years ago, the flames of the great menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem were extinguished by an oppressive Syrian-Greek regime that sought to destroy Jewish values and culture; as a result, darkness descended on the city of Jerusalem.

Ten years ago, the World Trade Center in New York was destroyed by terrorists who viewed American values and culture as a mortal enemy; once again, darkness descended.

In the last week of 2011, light returned to Ground Zero through the symbolism of the Hanukkah holiday as well as the tangible lighting of a menorah.

There is more light to be brought to Ground Zero. A new Hanukkah menorah, scheduled for dedication in 2014 when Freedom Tower is complete, will incorporate steel from the destroyed World Trade Center, thus physically connecting a tragic event with rededication and the future.

Photos of the 9/11 Solidarity Hanukkah Menorah and the candle lighting ceremony may be viewed and downloaded here.

About Michael and Bonnie Berkowicz
Michael and Bonnie Berkowicz have been collaborators and partners and in business as designers and artists for more than 20 years. Their work focuses on sanctuary design and furnishings, liturgical pieces that enhance worship and memorials that recognize and value the human spirit. Their design studio and showroom are in Mt. Vernon, N.Y. For more information about their work, please visit either Berkowicz Design or Presentations Gallery Ltd.


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Sharon Bond
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