Menorah Lighting at Point

California Attorney General Rob Bonta, right, listens as Rabbi Meir Shmotkin  addresses the more than 500 people in attendance at the the lighting of the  Hanukkah menorah at Alameda Point last Sunday. The menorah was fashioned out of Lego blocks earlier in the day at Rittler Park.
Clayton J. Mitchel Photography

Menorah Lighting at Point

On Sunday, Nov. 28, Chabad of Alameda hosted a Hanukkah celebration with the lighting of a 7-foot Hanukkah menorah built entirely out of Legos at Rittler Park.

The evening included traditional Hanukkah treats such as latkes, donuts and chocolate gelt coins. Entertainment includes a fire juggling show, a “make your own menorah” station, photo-ops with “Dreidel Man,” and balloons.

This year’s menorah lighting — the fifth annual menorah lighting hosted by Chabad of Alameda — is done with the recognition of the importance of community as many are still experiencing the hardships of the pandemic.

“The menorah reminds us of the unity that makes us strong,” said Rabbi Meir Shmotkin, who co-directs Chabad of Alameda with his wife Mushki. “The flames of the menorah shine out into the night, reminding us of the faith that unites us as a people, and sharing a message of freedom of religion for all.”

This year, the holiday comes as a spotlight has been shined on Chabad’s impact on Jewish life, as the recent Pew Portrait of Jewish Americans showed that 38% of all American Jews have participated in Chabad activities and services, and more than 75% of those do not identify as Orthodox.

The menorah lighting is part of the worldwide Hanukkah campaign launched by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, in 1973.

The campaign highlights and encourages the central theme of the holiday — publicizing the story of the Hanukkah miracle and the victory of light over darkness.

In the decades since the Rebbe’s Hanukkah awareness campaign began it has revitalized widespread observance of the Festival of Lights and brought it to the mainstream, returning what some have mistakenly dismissed as a minor holiday to its roots as a public proclamation of the ultimate triumph of freedom over oppression.

Hanukkah

This year’s festival began last Sunday evening and concludes the evening of Monday, Dec. 6. It recalls the victory of a militarily weak Jewish people who defeated the Syrian-Greeks who had overrun ancient Israel and sought to impose restrictions on the Jewish way of life and prohibit religious freedom.

The Syrian-Greeks also desecrated and defiled the Temple and the oils prepared for the lighting of the menorah, which was part of the daily service. Upon recapturing the Temple only one jar of undefiled oil was found, enough to burn only one day, but it lasted miraculously for eight.

In commemoration, Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting an eight-branched candelabrum known as a menorah.

Today, people of all faiths consider the holiday as a symbol and message of the triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter, of light over darkness. Additional information about the Hanukkah holiday is available at JewishAlameda.com/ chanukkah.