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US journalist freed by Myanmar helps light Hanukkah menorah in Detroit

American journalist Danny Fenster speaks at a news conference at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York November 16, 2021, after arriving in the United States following a six month detention in Myanmar. (AP Photo/ Craig Ruttle)
American journalist Danny Fenster speaks at a news conference at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York November 16, 2021, after arriving in the United States following a six month detention in Myanmar. (AP Photo/ Craig Ruttle)

An American journalist who was recently freed after spending nearly six months in jail in military-ruled Myanmar has helped light one of eight Hanukkah candles, during a holiday celebration in downtown Detroit.

Danny Fenster, 37, joins elected and community leaders for the “Menorah in the D” event marking the start of Hanukkah.

“It wasn’t a theme I thought about before the timing of my release and the timing of this event, but I think there’s that obvious connection with bringing light to darkness in journalism,” Fenster, who is Jewish, tells the Detroit Free Press. “The things that I was arrested for, being part of the news organization that’s trying to shed light on a very dark regime, seems obviously resonant to me.”

“I can’t imagine a better community to come home to,” Fenster says during a reception prior to the menorah lighting. “And it’s just made an already great, joyful situation even more joyful. Just had a lot of love and appreciation back home here in Detroit and metro Detroit, in the Jewish community and the wider community. It’s just been incredible.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan attends the ceremony, saying none of the previous events have been as special as this year with the safe return of Fenster.

“This truly is a Happy Hanukkah in Detroit. God bless you,” Duggan says before the lighting.

Fenster, who is from the Detroit suburb of Huntington Woods, was handed over on November 15 by Myanmar to former US diplomat Bill Richardson, who helped negotiate his release. He returned to the US the following day.

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