Journalist Freed by Myanmar Helps Light Menorah in Detroit

DETROIT -
Huntington Woods native and journalist Danny Fenster lights the candle during the menorah in the D ceremony Sunday, November 28, 2021, at Campus Martius in Detroit. (Detroit Free Press/TNS)

A Jewish journalist who was recently freed after spending nearly six months in jail in military-ruled Myanmar helped light the menorah during a celebration in downtown Detroit for the first night of Chanukah.

Danny Fenster, 37, joined elected and community leaders Sunday night for the “Menorah in the D” public Chanukah party. According to Chabad.org, Fenster was honored as one of the people who would carry the candle to the menorah in order to kindle it for the crowd of thousands.

“We were following the case closely and praying for Danny,” Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov told the outlet. “Danny experienced his own Chanukah miracle, and the Detroit community is overjoyed to welcome his home.”

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

Fenster, the managing editor of online magazine Frontier Myanmar, is one of more than 100 journalists, media officials and publishers who have been detained in the Southeast Asian country since its military ousted the elected government in February.

He was arrested on May 24 at Yangon International Airport and convicted of spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison with hard labor.

“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, told 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.”

Fenster told Chabad.org that he was honored and touched to find the community had been praying for his safe release and return home to Detroit.

“I can’t imagine a better community to come home to,” Fenster said during a reception prior to Sunday’s 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.”

Reporting by the Associated Press.