Crown Market kicked off the Festival of Lights with a gathering in the new cafe inside the West Hartford store.
By Ronni Newton
Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is taking on additional meaning for many people this year with an even greater appreciation of the holiday’s focus on light and hope.
Asif Peretz, an Israeli emissary living in West Hartford, joined Debra Raviv, who with her husband Khen is one of the new managing partners of Crown Market in West Hartford, at a community celebration of the first day of Chanukah at the store on Thursday afternoon.
“Hope, light, togetherness, the sprit if of community, resilience” – that’s what the Chanukah candles signify, Peretz said.
The new cafe – which is visually separated from the rest of the store and has seating for more than 30 people – has just been completed inside Crown Market, and it’s a space where shoppers can grab a deli sandwich or other food items from the 5 O’Clock Shop or anything else that’s available as grab and go in the refrigerators or elsewhere and sit down to enjoy it. On Thursday, as Chanukah was set to begin, it provided an ideal location for a celebration of the holiday with latkes and other special treats.
“I think this year specifically, for every day, I’m thinking about the heroes of Israel,” Peretz said. She said rather than thinking about the pain and atrocities, the holiday affords an opportunity to look at the bright side and focus on the heroes. “It could be soldiers, it could be civilians that did amazing things. Looking at the community and seeing what they did here,” she said. “It’s a really good time to take a step back and appreciate life.”
This is the first Jewish holiday since the war began on Oct. 7.
Raviv, whose husband, Khen, is from Israel, said her mother- and father-in-law are “carrying more of a heaviness” as they celebrate Chanukah in their country.
Peretz said as her parents in Israel light their candles alone for the first time, they are also “doing with a heavy heart” as they live with the war every day. Bring a sense of community is important, in Israel as well as locally, she said.
“For Chanukah, this is new,” Raviv said of the cafe, which they wanted to open in time for the holiday. “I wanted people to be able to come as a community and be able to spend time with each other, to share food, share stories.”
Also new at Crown, Raviv said, is a relationship her husband worked very hard to develop with an Israeli vendor that is bringing products directly from Israel to the U.S.
Crown now stocks 500 Israeli products that they get from the vendor. Raviv said she and Khen regularly drive to Brooklyn, where the vendor is located, to bring the items back to West Hartford.
About 20% of what is offered at Crown comes from Israel. “I think people are really appreciative of having these imported products, not just Jewish people or Israeli people. The items are very delicious or different.” She said the products are mostly food related, and include jarred items, dressings, olive oil, and olives.
They are also hoping to bring Judaica to the store at some point soon.
Peretz said she loves and appreciates having Crown Market nearby. “It’s more than a store, it’s a community gathering space,” she said, and reminds her of home.
“People in our community have been very supportive,” Raviv said.
Raviv said Crown has been holding fundraisers and has donated to Friends of the IDF and other organizations.
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