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Kids chorus warms up Hanukkah party in Bradenton

BRADENTON -- Cold temperatures didn’t keep roughly 150 people from attending the second Downtown Bradenton Menorah Lighting and Hanukkah Celebration on Sunday night.

The event, on the fifth night of Hanukkah, was held on the grass in front of Manatee Players.

Perhaps what gave the evening a special warmth was the performance of a chorus comprised of children from the religious schools of Temple Beth El and Congregation Ner Tamid in Bradenton.

The roughly 15 children sang “Oh Hanukkah” and “Dreidel, Dreidel.”

“I think my favorite part of the night was the kids’ singing,” said Rena Morano , education director for Congregation Ner Tamid.

Many remarked that it was historic to see the two synagogues both participate in a community event.

“This is the beginning of a wonderful partnership,” said Dr. Robyn Spirtas of Temple Beth El.

The evening began on a somber note as Temple Beth El Rabbi Harold Caminker prayed for the victims of the worst fire in Israel’s history, a blaze on Mount Carmel.

“My God who blessed Jacob and Moses, bless those who are on or around Mount Carmel,” Caminker said.

Shortly after the rabbi’s prayer the Associated Press reported that the 82-hour blaze was under control, with 41 lives lost.

Candle readings were presented by Temple Beth El president Lois Gerber, Ner Tamid chairman of advertising Lee Manevitch and Avery Manevitch representing the children of Ner Tamid.

Leona Braun of the Manatee Players was next to read followed by Susie Konicov, Temple Beth El’s religious school teacher.

The readings concluded with Janet Hazuda, a Ner Tamid parent, Dr. Craig Hoffman, the longest standing member of Temple Beth El, Sheila Kovalsky, Temple Beth El sisterhood president and Kerry and Tammy Woll, a newly married couple at Temple Beth El.

Temple Beth El Cantor Alan Cohn appeared to delight the crowd when he sang, “Oh Chanukah” and “The Little Candle” in Yiddish.

“I thought of my grandmother,” said Temple Beth El’s Sandy Clark.

Bradenton Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey said the menorah lighting shows that Bradenton has become an accepting community.

“This event shows me that we have become a truly diverse city that believes in religious freedom,” Barnebey said.

Barnebey may have been the surprise star of the night when she sang “Light One Candle.”

“I was raised Southern Baptist so I didn’t think I could do Hebrew,” quipped Barnebey, who, judging by the long applause, appeared to have pull it off just fine.

During the event, Barnebey said she was touched by the look on the parents’ faces as their children sang in the chorus.

“When I saw the pride in their faces it suddenly occurred to me that the feeling that parents get when their children follow in their spiritual footsteps is universal,” Barnebey said. “There is a lot more that unites us than divides us.”

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, Ext. 6686.