NEEDHAM — A crowd gathered outside the Chabad Jewish Center just after sunset Sunday to light a menorah in support of the victims of an attack the day before on a rabbi’s home in Monsey, N.Y.
Standing before more than 50 people, Rabbi Mendy Krinsky imparted a message of hope.
“Do a little good, and it’ll dispel a little darkness,” Rabbi Mendy Krinsky said before the crowd. “You’ll be surprised what a lot of light can do.”
The ceremony took place on the eighth and final evening of Hanukkah -- the most powerful night of the celebration, according to Krinsky, who has led the center for about 20 years. In an e-mail announcing the gathering, Krinsky said he hoped the community could make a statement, and fight hate with light and love.
“We feel it’s necessary to get the community together and to pray,” he said in a phone interview before the event. “But we’re also going to dance because we can’t be intimidated. We can’t be defined by anti-Semitism.”
The lighting was held less than 24 hours after a knife-wielding man barged into a home where members of an Orthodox Jewish community were celebrating Hanukkah. Five people were stabbed, one of whom was critically wounded, officials said.
Saturday’s attack was the most recent in a string of attacks targeting Jews in the region.
On Dec. 10, six people, including a police officer, were killed when a gunman opened fire at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, N.J. About a month ago, a man was stabbed in Monsey while walking to a synagogue.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that there have been 13 such attacks in the state since Dec. 8, and called the violence “an American cancer on the body politic.”
Krinsky said the attacks are particularly painful during Hanukkah, a time when Jews remember a triumph over an enemy who tried to destroy their community -- the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian army.
“It’s always deeply meaningful because we have the most light [on this eighth night of Hanukkah]’ ” said Gary Waleik, a Natick resident who attended the event with his wife. “It takes in a deeper significance in light of news stories that have happened this week.”
Members of Needham’s Chabad community are not strangers to anti-Semitic violence. Krinsky’s home was one of two Chabad centers hit by arson in May.
“Their response was to do good deeds,” Needham resident Karen Shapiro said, speaking about the rabbi and his family. “I find them inspiring.”
Members of the center distributed charity boxes -- “cans of love,” as Krinsky called them -- during the event to be filled with money, then donated to a charity of their choice.
“That’s a universal thing that we can all do to counter hate with love, regardless of your religion or what your beliefs are,” Krinsky said.
But despite the shock of the attacks, many who attended the lighting expressed hope for the future.
“We’ve seen this sort of thing time and time again,” Michael Hanau of Westwood said. “The arc of history bends toward tolerance and understanding between people.”
Abigail Feldman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.