Final Hanukkah Menorah Candle Lit - Thomas Kennedy Sculpture Briefly Unveiled

December 10, 2018

Elected officials, business and community leaders, and members of the Congregation B'nai Abraham gathered at the under-construction Thomas Kennedy Memorial Park in the evening of Sunday December 9th. A large gold Menorah was placed in front of the Thomas Kennedy sculpture, which was briefly uncovered for the ceremony.

(L-R, Tom Riford, Thomas Kennedy Center Executive Director; Ari Plost, Rabbi of the Congregation B'nai Abraham; Maryland Delegate Paul Corderman; Leon Seidman, President of the Congregation B'nai Abraham)

December 9th was the 200th anniversary of Thomas Kennedy's Introduction of the Jew Bill that opened the doors for Jews to fully serve in public life in Maryland. Dec. 9th was also the last night of Hannukah, a Jewish holiday that celebrates religious freedom.

The candle lighting ceremony was held at the Thomas Kennedy Park across the street from the Congregation B'nai Abraham at 53 East Baltimore Street. It was led by Rabbi Ari Plost, Rabbi of B'nai Abraham and Founder of the Thomas Kennedy Memorial Park. Lighting candles included Leon Seidman, President of the Congregation B'nai Abraham; along with Senator Andrew Serafini, Delegate Paul Corderman, former Senator Don Munson, Judge Brett Wilson. All are or were elected officials who held or hold Thomas Kennedy's seat. Also lighting candles were Hagerstown Councilperson Lew Metzner, Noted Sculptor Toby Mendez, Tom Riford, the executive director of the Thomas Kennedy Center, and Monda Sagalkin, the President of the board of directors for the Thomas Kennedy Center.

On December 9, 1818, Kennedy introduced a bill to consider the justice and expediency of "placing the Jewish inhabitants of Maryland on an equal footing with Christians” and stated, in a committee report, that religion was a question between man and his Creator, not between a man and his government. The bill was defeated in both 1819 and 1820. As a result of his agitation, Kennedy was defeated for re-election in 1821 and 1823, and was assailed as a "Judas" and "enemy of Christianity."

Although the "Jew Bill" was defeated at that time, it was brought up in each succeeding session. Kennedy was re-elected, and continually fought for the bill. Finally, on January 5, 1826, the last day of the session, the bill passed.

The event was well attended on a cold, and brisk night!