Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff Hanukkah Menorah loaned by Aaron Feuerstein’s family to Brookline

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When Brookline locale Marika Shosh Feuerstein painted a menorah for her grandfather in 2016, she couldn’t expect she would one day find herself in the nation’s capital, lit by Vice President Kamala Harris and the second gentleman Doug Emhoff. But before Chanukah, she received this same request from their staff, and later saw photos on twitter of couple observing vacation with family menorah.

Harris and Emhoff researched Marika Feuerstein’s menorah because it was used by her grandfather, Aaron Feuerstein, a Massachusetts factory owner who came to prominence in the late 1990s for continuing to pay her workers after the fire in his factory.

“I was blown away and shocked to receive this call to begin with, but it was really moving for me that they wanted to pay tribute to it,” said Marika Feuerstein.

The Feuerstein family light all the Chanukah candles together, but this was the first year without Aaron, who died last month at age 95. “It’s been a dark time for us so it’s really brought us a lot of happiness,” said her granddaughter. .

Emhoff and Harris with the Feuerstein family menorah.

Aaron was born in Brookline in 1925, where he deceased in November. He attended Boston Latin School and was a member and senior advisor of Young Israel, an Orthodox temple in Brookline founded by his father.

Young Israeli rabbi David Hellman described him as a “living legend” at the synagogue, where Hellman said he attended Shabbat every week. Hellman called the Feuerstein family the “founding pillar” of Boston’s Jewish community.

In 1995, when a fire threatened Malden Mills’ future in Lawrence – a week before Chanukah – Aaron spent millions to pay his workers until the factory could be rebuilt.

“I’m not throwing 3,000 people out of work two weeks before Christmas,” he told the Boston Globe. the day after the fire.

The decision to keep the workers employed and to rebuild the factory in Lawrence, where it was a major employer in the city, ran counter to manufacturing trends at a time when many owners were relocating factories south or south. foreigner to take advantage of cheap labor. Feuerstein’s grandfather had opened the factory in 1906, and it remained in the family for three generations until it was sold in the early 2000s.

Feuerstein became a national hero for his decision, the Globe nicknamed him “Mesnch from Malden Mills. “ Boston University, along with other universities and organizations, have awarded him honorary degrees and awards, and former President Bill Clinton honored him as a guest during the state of the l ‘Union in 1996.

Hellman said Aaron’s kindness extended far beyond the famous factory fire. “There are so many stories about people he has helped in private, quietly,” he said. “Whether it’s one of the thousands of people who work for him, or he hears that an employee’s spouse is having difficulty or has medical bills or whatever, and what ‘he won’t pay for that, or that an employee’s child wanted to go to college but couldn’t afford it. … He has lived his whole life like this.

Marika described her grandfather as a “really strong Democrat,” but noted that Emhoff and Harris lighting the menorah brought unity beyond political divisions in his community.

A white menorah painted with blue flowers is lit by eight Hanukkah candles.
Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff lit this menorah this week to celebrate Chanukah. It was painted by Marika Shosh Feuerstein, of Brookline, for her late grandfather Aaron Feuerstein.

Marika Shosh Feuerstein

“Everything is so polarized, and I always say I have friends on both ends of the spectrum politically,” she said. “It made me so happy because even the people who are very far to the right thought it was amazing.”

Although the first White House Hanukkah was in 2001, it is the first year that a Jewish person has celebrated the holiday at the Vice President’s residence, along with Emhoff. to be the first Jewish person to fill his role. (No Jewish person has ever been president, vice-president, or first lady.)

Hellerman said Aaron embodied what it meant to be Jewish in the United States. “Aaron, on the one hand, was incredibly proud to be a Jew and was incredibly dedicated to his community and to the living and continuing Jewish tradition,” he said. “But he was also just as proud to be an American.”

Marika considered her grandfather to represent the party. “He is the ultimate symbol of Hanukkah and you should always be proud of your heritage, identity and ethnicity no matter where you are from,” she said. “So for the vice president and the second gentleman to honor him with his menorah, it couldn’t be more perfect.”



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