Community remembers Jessica Ridgeway at menorah lighting

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — On a cold Sunday afternoon, Westminster residents gathered at the Orchard Town Center for a celebration.

It’s the 10th year Chabad of Northwest Metro Denver has hosted a public menorah lighting for Chanukah.

But this year, the ceremony held a special meaning. The lights were lit in memory of Jessica Ridgeway.

“We have this opportunity to remember a very special girl. We want to try to bring some light into a very dark tragic situation. And the menorah lighting is this idea of lighting up a candle and spreading that light and making that light personal,” said Rabbi Benjy Brackman.

Gussie Burton showed up early to make sure she was a part of the event. She didn’t know Jessica, but like a lot of people, she was heartbroken by the ten-year-old’s murder.

“It’s obviously very symbolic. We all try to keep the light of Jessica’s life in our hearts,” Burton said.

Ridgeway was not Jewish, but her mother Sara lit the menorah’s center light as the crowd broke into applause.

“They don’t want darkness. They want the darkness to turn to light and what more appropriate time than tonight share and remember Jessica with lighting of the menorah,” said Westminster Mayor Nancy McNally.

Ridgeway’s mother smiled at times during the ceremony and several people acknowledged her presence was healing.

Mayor McNally told Sara Ridgeway during her speech, “You have nurtured this community and you have kept us strong.”

The lighting was followed by a call for everyone to do good deeds in Jessica’s memory, no matter what you believe this holiday season.

“Doing good deeds in memory of Jessica is really the greatest symbol of what we can do in Jessica’s memory in making her legacy live on in our community,” Rabbi Brackman said

“I think it may just be a lesson in trying to get us all together and not be strangers and not have our mind on everything else other than each other,” Burton said.