DETROIT (WXYZ) — To mark the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, a giant menorah was lit up in downtown Detroit as part of the annual Menorah in the D event.
Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, vice president of Chabad Lubavitch of Michigan, says Hanukkah has a special meaning and that no matter how dark it gets, one should always strive to bring light. So to celebrate the concept, for the next eight days, one more candle will be lit on a menorah.
"The festival of lights takes us back to over 2,000 years ago when the Jews were being persecuted by the Syrian Greeks," Shemtov said.
That's why when it comes to lighting the 26 feet tall menorah, every year, the Jewish community selects eight members to receive the special honor, and Rabbi Shemtov says he is proud of this year’s selection.
"We look around every year, who can really exemplify for us for what it means to devote yourself to others and volunteer," Shemtov said.
Malka Leeal and Kim Weiner are two of the lamplighters for this year and Rabbi Shemtov says their journey is inspirational as it highlights the importance of helping someone in need.
"Malka has been coming to Menorah in the D for years and unfortunately this year, she had a loss of her husband, it was very sudden, she was really in a place of darkness and she was embraced by the community and someone like Kim," Shemtov said,
"I was recently married a year ago and we have a custom to have an open home to people in need, and when the Rabbi called me and asked me if wanted to help a woman in the community, I said 'Of course," Weiner said.
Eight years ago, Leeal’s husband Mati was diagnosed with a rare brain disease, which over the years got worse. On Aug. 10, 2021, Mati lost his battle to the illness.
"I was married 40 years to a wonderful guy who was also my best friend. And on the day he went away, it's like something went away with it," Leeal said.
And even though at that moment she was surrounded with darkness, it was her friendship with Weiner that brought new light into Leeal's life.
"I came out of the house with a body behind me and I walked into someone’s house that just embraced me," Leeal said.
"Malka means everything now. She is actually the symbol of somebody that you extended a warm place in your heart. Malka is shining her light everywhere, she cooks for the needy, she helps with the children, she is so involved with the community now," Weiner said.
Leeal and Weiner refer to each other as best friends. The bond they developed during a difficult time will always be a reminder to be the light for someone's darkness.