By Keldine Hull
With Hanukkah upon us, the City of Santa Monica prepares for eight nights of celebration and unity. Chabad synagogue in Santa Monica, located on 17th Street, is hosting a series of events that all are welcome to and encouraged to attend. The first night of Hanukkah, Sunday, December 2nd, kicks off at the Santa Monica Pier with a menorah lighting and menorah display. Throughout the following days, over fifty menorahs will find the light at various businesses and privately owned open spaces. Third Street Promenade Hanukkah Night Live will mark the end of the holiday with a performance by 8th Day Band, a giant menorah lighting and plenty of free dreidels for children. Santa Monica Manager Ted Winterer is also expected to be in attendance. Festivities will also extend to those too ill to leave their home. Chabad’s Rabbi Levitansky explains, “In Santa Monica, we visit nightly all of the convalescent homes. There’s approximately twenty-five that we visit to share the joy of the holiday with all the residents. We light the menorahs and have a party for the residents there.”
The history behind the Hanukkah celebration is just as inspiring now as it was centuries ago and remains to be such an important holiday in the Jewish faith. “Hanukkah historically is the holiday when the Jewish people were given decrees of not being allowed to practice their faith,” Rabbi Levitansky begins. “Although they were much smaller in numbers, in strength, they fought back and gained their freedom. They overcame all those challenges miraculously. This was a miracle from God. But the highlight of the day is when they went back to the temple, and they didn’t have any oil to light the menorah. They found just enough oil that would last for one day. It ended up lasting eight days, which was how long they needed to get more oil.”
The significance of what Hanukkah represents is even more relevant in the face of mounting bigotry during one of the most tumultuous political climates in recent history. Earlier this month, the FBI released the 2017 Hate Crime Statistics report that indicated hate crimes increased for the third consecutive year, up 17 percent since 2016. Among those targeted is the Jewish community, which experienced their deadliest attack in the United States on October 27 when a gunman killed 11 innocent worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Rabbi Levitansky explains why Hanukkah’s message of love and light is especially meaningful this year. “If you are in a dark room, the way to get rid of the darkness is by lighting a flame, by bringing light. When you have a circumstance of darkness, of hate, the way to get rid of that is to bring more love or for this matter, when you have violence, you bring in acts of goodness and kindness. And that’s the message of the menorah.”
To learn more about upcoming events or how you can get involved, visit: www.jewishsmonica.com