How and where to celebrate the Festival of Lights this year
NORTH COUNTY — With the current and steep rise in antisemitism throughout the world, celebrating Hanukkah seems especially important this year. The Jewish holiday is one that represents miracles, light, and pride in being a part of the Jewish people. It also happens to be one of the most visual Jewish holidays with a rich history of the Jews standing up against oppression.
“In the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of mitzvah observance and belief in G‑d. Against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and rededicated it to the service of G‑d,” Rabbi Meir Gordon from the Chabad of Paso Robles explained about the Hanukkah story. “When they sought to light the Temple’s Menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.”
This year, Hanukkah celebrations start at sundown on Thursday, Dec. 7, and ends the night of Friday, Dec. 15. Jews and allies from all over San Luis Obispo County will gather on Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. at the Mission in San Luis Obispo (SLO) for Hanukkah’s first-night menorah lighting. The menorah will be lit at 5 p.m. each of the seven nights following with members from Atascadero’s Congregation Ohr Tzafon lighting the final candle on the menorah on Dec. 14.
“For myself and many Jews, the Festival of Lights is more than a winter celebration of light. Many cultures and religions have celebrations of light at this time of year. For Jews, it’s also a celebration of the freedom to worship as we choose,” said Congregation Ohr Tzafon’s President Bill Alexander. “This time every year, we are reminded of the 2,000-year-plus struggle by Jews everywhere to be able to practice our religion without fear of persecution. Jewish history is replete with stories of various cultures, religions, and countries who have attempted to obliterate the Jews. Hanukkah is a reminder that even in the face of daunting odds and intense hatred, if we persevere and keep the faith, we cannot be destroyed.”
For North County residents who don’t want to travel over the Cuesta Grade, The Chabad of Paso Robles will be back with their second annual Menorah Lighting at the Downtown City Park in Paso Robles on Sunday, Dec. 10, for the fourth night of Hanukkah. The fun will start at 4:30 p.m. and will include latkes (potato pancakes), live music, and a Gelt Drop put on by the Paso Robles Fire Department. The Menorah Lighting, like the ones in SLO, is open to the entire community, to celebrate Jewish culture and faith together.
“We can encourage all of our friends and family, Jewish and not Jewish, to be beacons of light in their circles of influence. Just as the Hanukkah Menorah shines its light in the darkness, and serves as a beacon of light for all to see, so can every human being be an example of goodness, kindness, and compassion,” added Rabbi Gordon.
You can register for the Paso Robles Menorah Lighting at ChabadPaso.com/Light, which also sets you up for a free gift while there.
Happy First Night of Hanukkah, North County