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Home / Jewish holiday

Public menorah lightings in LA area to signal start of Hanukkah

By Steven Herbert

Los Angeles’ Hanukkah celebrations will begin Thursday at City Hall with Mayor Karen Bass joining other city officials and community leaders to illuminate a menorah salvaged from the ashes of a Polish synagogue.

The Katowice Menorah was the sole remaining ritual object d’art salvaged from the ashes of the Great Synagogue in Katowice, Poland which was destroyed by a fire set shortly after the German invasion that began World War II, according to Rabbi Chaim N. Cunin, the CEO of Chabad of California, organizers of the 40th annual celebration.

The menorah was hidden underground during World War II and later given as a gift to Chabad, a nonprofit organization which offers many programs to help the needy regardless of background or belief, Cunin said.

The menorah will be displayed in City Hall’s rotunda throughout the eight days of Hanukkah, which commemorates the temple rededication in Jerusalem that followed the Maccabees’ victory over a larger Syrian army.

Holocaust survivors are set to attend the ceremony which will also include a musical performance by the Cheder Menachem Boys Choir.

Nightly menorah lightings will begin Thursday at 5 p.m. at Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and at sunset at the Santa Monica Place shopping center.

Menorah lightings will also be Thursday at 5 p.m. at The Culver Steps in Culver City; from 5-7 p.m. at Palisades Village and 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the Lily Pond at Beverly Gardens Park in Beverly Hills.

Infinite Light, a weeklong Hanukkah festival with events across Los Angeles, begins Thursday evening with a party on the Petersen Museum. Ticket sales have concluded.

Infinite Light’s Friday event is “Shabbanukkah” 25 dinners at homes throughout Los Angeles County. Reservations can be made at dinners.onetable.org/search/los_angeles?query=infinitelight.

Infinite Light is organized by the federation’s NuRoots Initiative for young adults.

“Our Jewish community is facing a dark and challenging time this Hanukkah season,” said Rabbi Noah Farkas, the federation’s President & CEO.

“This has been especially felt by our young Jewish community, who are being harassed in unprecedented numbers across college campuses and online. While we understand the fear some in the Jewish community are experiencing, we believe it is vital to never forget what makes being Jewish so joyful and encourage everyone to celebrate openly. We must always remember to find light and to not hide in fear.”

Once the Jews defeated the Hellenist Syrian forces of Antiochus IV in 165 B.C. at the end of a three-year rebellion, the temple in Jerusalem, which the occupiers had dedicated to the worship of Zeus, was rededicated by Judah Maccabee, who led the insurgency begun by his father, the high priest Mattathias.

According to the story of Hanukkah, Maccabee and his soldiers wanted to light the temple’s ceremonial lamp with ritually pure olive oil as part of their rededication but found only enough oil to burn for one day. The oil, however, burned for eight days in what was considered to be a miracle.

Hanukkah — which means “dedication” in Hebrew — is observed around the world by lighting candles in a special menorah called a Hanukkiah each day at sundown for eight days, with an additional candle added each day.

The reason for the lights is so passersby should see them and be reminded of the holiday’s miracle.

Other Hanukkah traditions include spinning a dreidel, a four-sided top, which partially commemorates a game that Jews under Greek domination are believed to have played to camouflage their Torah study, and eating foods fried in oil such as latkes, which are pancakes of grated raw potatoes, and jelly doughnuts.

Children receive Hanukkah “gelt,” the Yiddish word for money, from parents and grandparents. The tradition originated with 17th-century Polish Jews giving money to their children to give their teachers during Hanukkah, which led to parents also giving children money.

In the United States, the practice has evolved into giving holiday gifts to children and others.

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