Kinara (foreground) and menorah (background) at Fountain Square on Monday.

It was just coincidence that a Hanukkah menorah and a Kwanzaa kinara were at Fountain Square on Monday.

Or was it?

Monday marked the last day of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish “Festival of Lights,” which incorporates a candle holder with nine branches (the menorah), one branch for each night of the holiday, plus the “shammash,” the candle used to light the others.

Monday also was the first day of Kwanzaa, the celebration of African and African-American culture and values. The Kwanzaa kinara, also a candle holder, has seven branches. One candle is lit every night to represent a different principle.

Kwanzaa runs from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.

Hanukkah occurs at different times in either November and/or December on the Gregorian calendar.

So surely it was just a coincidence that the end of one festival was the same day as the start of another, Dec. 26.

Or maybe it wasn’t.

“Coincidence,” said Rabbi Andrea London, of Beth Emet, The Free Synagogue, “is God’s way of remaining anonymous” while making important things happen.

London spoke at the “community sharing” event at Fountain Square, a ceremony which honored both Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Tim Rouze, artistic director at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theater organized the proceedings.

Rouze explained that each Kwanzaa candle represents a different principle. The first candle stands for “Umoja,” which means “unity” in Swahili.

To add emphasis, Kayleigh Dent, of Dance Center of Evanston, performed a dance to “a song about unity, bringing people together in the community.”

Kayleigh Dent performs unity dance.

Pastor Ken Cherry, of Christ Temple Church, said “it was a blessing” to look at the crowd on the Square and “see America, a mixture” of faces and cultures.

Kwanzaa, Cherry said, “teaches us that we are better together.”

Certainly there are differences between Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. But having the menorah and the kinara at the Square together sent a message about community.

“The more candles,” observed Mayor Daniel Biss, “the better.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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  1. Who pays for these displays? If it’s City money (directly or indirectly), then I demand that the Statue of Baphomet be out there as well.

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