Menorah and the Mayor

11/26/2013 2:50 pm0 commentsViews: 18

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles’ first elected
Jewish mayor, joined city and local Jewish leaders today to illuminate the
first candle on a 17th century menorah that will be displayed at City Hall in
celebration of Hanukkah.
Chabad of California organized the annual City Hall menorah lighting
ceremony, now in its 28th year.
The 17th century Katowitz Menorah was the only ritual object left after
the Great Katowitz Synagogue in southern Poland was burned in 1938 following
the Nazis’ Kristallnacht or “Night of Broken Glass,” a series of coordinated
attacks against Jews, mainly in Germany and Austria.
The menorah was saved from destruction by being hidden underground and
was later gifted to Chabad. It will be displayed in City Hall’s rotunda for the
duration of Hanukkah, the eight-day commemoration of the temple rededication
that followed the Maccabees’ triumph over a larger Syrian army in 165 B.C.
“Jews throughout the world mark this festival of freedom, of religious
tolerance, of light, of joy, of hope and serenity,” said Rabbi Moshe Greenwald
of Chabad, a community-based nonprofit organization which offers programs to
help the needy of all backgrounds and beliefs.
Garcetti described the Hanukkah story as the “great underdog tale” of
the outnumbered Maccabees.
“For 2,000 years, the story of Hanukkah has given hope to not only Jews
around the world, but (it) is really a universal story for all humanity,” he
said.
Once the Jews defeated the Hellenist Syrian forces of Antiochus IV 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 held to be a miracle, originating
the Hanukkah tradition of lighting the eight-armed menorah.
That “miracle,” Garcetti said, “reminds us to keep the faith even in
those moments of darkness.”
As soon as the menorah was lit, shouts of “L’Chaim!” or “to life!”
rang out as rabbis from Chabad led Garcetti, Councilman Paul Koretz and other
elected officials in a lively bout of traditional Jewish dancing.
Hanukkah begins at sundown Wednesday, but the ceremony was held today
because few people are expected to be at City Hall Wednesday because of
Thanksgiving, according to Chabad.
Hanukkah — which means dedication in Hebrew — is observed around the
world by lighting candles in a special menorah called a Hanukiah each day at
sundown for eight days, with an additional candle added each day. The reason
for the lights is so passers-by 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 played to
camouflage their Torah study, and eating foods fried in oil, such as potato
pancakes 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, akin to Christmas gift-giving.
Unlike on the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, or
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, observant Jews are permitted to work and
attend school during Hanukkah, the only Jewish holiday that commemorates a
military victory.
This will be the first time Hanukkah has fallen during Thanksgiving
nationally since 1918, prompting the coining of “Thanksgivvukah,” which
merges elements of the two holidays.
Hanukkah begins on the 25th of Kislev on the lunar Jewish calendar,
which corresponds with November or December on the Gregorian calendar.
Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will not coincide again until 2070.
Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincided in 1956 in Texas when it still
celebrated Thanksgiving on the original final Thursday in November.
Thanksgiving was shifted to the fourth Thursday in November in 1939 by
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in an attempt to spur Christmas shopping.
However, some states, including Texas, continued to celebrate Thanksgiving on
the original date.

Menorah lighting  Photo By Gary McCarthy

Menorah lighting
Photo By Gary McCarthy

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