The Chabad of Paso Robles hosted their second annual Menorah Lighting at the city park

NORTH COUNTY — The local Jewish community and allies from all over the North County gathered together at the Paso Robles Downtown city park for the Chabad of Paso Robles’ second annual Menorah Lighting. The lighting started at 4:30 p.m. with hot soup and latkes for all. 

“We are happy to be here tonight to publicize the miracle of Hanukkah,” stated Rabbi Meir Gordon at the start of the lighting. “Hanukkah, the eight-day festival of Jewish light, celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of freedom over oppression, of spirituality over materialism.” 

Both Atascadero Major Heather Moreno and Paso Robles Mayor John Hamon were at the event, and Hamon spoke to the crowd following Rabbi Gordon’s opening. 

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Rabbi Meir Gordon (right) invites Atascadero Major Heather Moreno (middle) up to give a speech at the second annual Menorah Lighting in Paso. Photo by Christianna Marks

“Hanukkah emphasizes that each and every individual has the unique power of illumination. It also reminds us that illumination begins at home, with ourselves and our families,” said Hamon. “The lights of Hanukkah and the menorah are kindled when the sun has set, and the darkness covers the earth; that’s when the light energy of a candle is greatest. Especially now, the menorah represents freedom from tyranny and oppression and freedom for all people to express their own faith as they see fit. 

“When it’s lit in a public place like our park today, I see a menorah representing the principles of equality and religious freedom upon which our country was founded. And it is a wonderful symbol of religious diversity that is a hallmark of Paso Robles, the County of San Luis Obispo, and the great state of California.”

Rabbi Gordon returned to the gazebo stage to lead a special prayer for the local Jewish community’s brothers and sisters in Israel, including all of the hostages still held by Hamas and those fighting for Israel’s freedom. He also prayed for continued safety and future peace.

Moreno also gave a speech to the crowd gathered for the lighting. She stated that she has a graduate degree in theology and added that she had attended an antisemitism panel on Sept. 10 at Congregation Ohr Tzafon in Atascadero, which made it apparent that Jews are still facing antisemitism today.

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Rabbi Meir Gordon kindles the lights of the menorah on the fourth night of Hanukkah. Photo by Christianna Marks.

“And then the atrocities of Oct. 7 [happened], and then I realized this is not nearly as in the past as I had so naively thought,” Moreno said. “So, as someone who has only studied what you practice day in and day out, what could I say to you today? I can say thank you. I can say thank you for practicing your faith in a way that sheds light into the world. Just like lighting this menorah does during Hanukkah. 

“Thank you for being willing to do it when it is hard, as I imagine that it is more days than not. Thank you for being that light for freedom over oppression and tyranny so that we might all be able to practice our religion in the way that we desire. So, thank you, and Happy Hannukah.”

Paso Robles Chief of Police Damian Nord and officers from the force were also there. As well as the Paso Robles Fire Department, who performed their annual gelt drop from the top of the ladder on one of their fire engines for the kids and young at heart to catch the chocolate coins as they dropped from the sky. Levi from Ignite Fire Dance also performed for the attendees. 

Then, it was time for the main event of the menorah lighting. Major Pro Tem Steve Gregory lit the shamash candle in the middle of the nine-foot-tall menorah. While the other four candles were sponsored. Candles one and two were lit in honor of two Jewish community members who have passed. The third candle was dedicated to the health and safety of Jewish people the world over, and the fourth candle was dedicated to a soldier in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). 

“Each of us here tonight is a menorah. Each of us here tonight is a source of light. Just like in the Holy Temple, each of you is a beautiful menorah of pure gold. But don’t forget to light your menorah and add a candle each night. Let’s keep increasing the light. Right now, the entire world has their attention focused on the Jewish people, this is not time to hide. This is a time to shine brighter than ever before,” stated Rabbi Gordon.

The night concluded with dancing, community, and Jewish joy. 

Feature Image: Rabbi Meir Gordon (left) invites Paso Robles Major John Hamon (middle) to speak at the Paso Robles menorah lighting. Photo by Christianna Marks.