A delicate balance of sorrow, spirit and solidarity left a profound mark on all who attended the Lights of Hope Chanukah event at Moriah College on December 7.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience of 1500 when Natalia Cassarotti – whose son, Keshet, was murdered by Hamas terrorists on October 7 – spoke in a live cross from Israel, shown on a big screen.
“The day after the funeral, I lit a memorial candle to my son and in that moment, I knew I’m choosing light and to continue the light of my son,” she said.
“I won’t let them [Hamas] take my soul and my spirit.
“It’s now Chanukah and each of us is a very small light, but together, we are a huge light.
“It’s a great honour for me to speak with you, even from this distance and to feel that we are one.”
A candle on a giant chanukiah was lit by visiting Israelis Ofir Tamir and Amit Parpara, who earlier spoke about their close friend Noa Argamani, who remains in captivity in Gaza.
Argamani’s mother has stage four brain cancer and in a heartbreaking video message, called on the world to “bring back my Noa as soon as possible, so that I get the chance to see her”.
After prayers recited by Rabbi Gad Krebs, the evening’s tone shifted to joy and hope.
People danced to the sound of the Shmone Band, and singers Benny Goldstein, Nikki Stanislav, Sasha Fisher, Shlomo Lipman and Moriah College’s own Lucy Milner – the latter entering a huge Star of David, surrounded by beams of light aimed at the stars.
The event was organised by the ‘Bring Them Home Australia’ Jewish mothers’ volunteer group, supported by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and included a war update, via video link, with Master Sergeant Nimrod Vronen from the IDF.
In his address, ECAJ co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said in these dark times, it’s important to continue to “live proudly as a Jew” and draw “strength, joy and meaning” from doing so.
Moriah student Shira Gottlieb reflected how since the horrors of October 7, it feels like “we’re stuck, frozen in time”, yet “we stand here tonight, a strong, resilient Jewish community”.