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A symbol of unity

Mark Glassman says the huge menorah in his front yard celebrates Hanukkah and religious diversity.

By MOLLY MOORHEAD
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 1, 2002


WESLEY CHAPEL -- Like many Meadow Pointe residents, Mark Glassman has lights adorning his home for the holidays.

But Glassman's display differs from most others. In his front yard sits a 5-foot-tall lighted menorah made of PVC pipe.

Glassman, 56, first put the ornament in his yard two years ago in part to celebrate Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, and in part to promote religious diversity.

"I think we should all be proud of religion today," Glassman said. "We need more of it, regardless of what it is."

Hanukkah, which began at sundown Friday, is an eight-day celebration marking the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees more than 2,000 years ago. According to tradition, a miracle occurred when one day's worth of oil used to light the temple lasted eight days.

So Jews celebrate for eight days and light a candle in the menorah each night.

Glassman, a Reform Jew, said he, his wife and two grown sons will exchange gifts, eat potato latkes (like potato pancakes), and attend a party at their temple. His grandchildren, one 5 and the other 18 months, will play the dreidel game.

Glassman attends Temple Ohev Shalom in Tampa Palms. He moved to the area in 2000 from Coram, N.Y., where he and his wife, Renee, helped form a new temple with 35 other households.

"We were a family," said Glassman, a retired high school shop teacher.

He said he hopes to create the same closeness at Ohev Shalom, which was formed four years ago as a Conservative temple but is trying to reach out to all Jews.

"We want the Jewish sects in this area to feel comfortable, regardless of what they are," he said.

The menorah in Glassman's yard is somewhat representative of the unity he seeks. He said his Meadow Pointe neighbor, Roy Laccone, who is not Jewish, made it for him.

"I didn't even ask. He just did it on his own," Glassman said.

Glassman, who recently was elected to the Meadow Pointe II Community Development District Board, also decorated the front entrance to Morningside, his subdivision in Meadow Pointe. The signs he used bear the messages "Peace on Earth" and "Happy Holidays," so as not to exclude anyone. Religious messages, Glassman said, should be expressed on individual houses.

And on the Glassman house, that expression takes the form of a giant menorah.

"I don't do it to flaunt it," he said. "I just do it because it's me."

-Molly Moorhead covers religion news. She can be reached at (352) 521-5757, ext. 29 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6108, then 29. Her e-mail address is moorhead@sptimes.com .

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