SANTA MONICA, California — A synagogue that was vandalized on the first night of Chanukah, with feces and food smeared across the front entrance near a menorah display, held a joyful public menorah lighting on Monday evening to celebrate unity and tolerance.
Rabbi Boruch Rabinowitz of the Living Torah Center, a congregation affiliated with the Orthodox Jewish movement of Lubavitch Chabad, told a crowd of over 100 people who had gathered on Wilshire Boulevard that the community would set aside the darkness of the event and spread the light of the holiday instead. “We will make the light burn … we will give the light to another, that they should pass it to another … protect the flame of Godliness.”
Several members of the Santa Monica Police Department attended, both to provide security and to participate. They were applauded heartily by the congregation.
A stiff evening wind made lighting the candles challenging, but the rabbi commented: “The cold and the wind cannot extinguish the flame that’s in our hearts.” A band played on the sidewalk, performing classics such as “Hava Nagila,” “Oh Chanukah,” and “Dreidel, Dreidel.”
“It’s not only [that] we care that this synagogue should not be desecrated, but of course we care that no holy place should be desecrated, not in the United States of America, and not anywhere around the world,” the rabbi said.
After singing the customary blessings, the rabbi lit the large menorah outside the synagogue, lighting three candles on the eight-branch candelabra, signifying the third night of the holiday.
Chanukah lasts a total of eight nights and eight days, commemorating a miracle that happened at the end of the successful Jewish revolt against Seleucid rule in Israel in 165 B.C. When the victorious Maccabees came to clean and re-dedicate the Holy Temple, they only found enough oil to light the menorah lamps for one day, but it lasted for eight.
Local news networks broadcast the menorah lighting live. After the ceremony, the synagogue served customary latkes (potato pancakes) and gave away chocolate-covered gelt (coins) as well as menorahs and candles.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.