City Hall Hanukkah Menorah lighting set for today

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles’ first elected Jewish mayor, will participate in today’s 28th annual City Hall menorah lighting ceremony, celebrating the Jewish Festival of Hanukkah’s message of freedom, hope and light.

“It will be a momentous celebration,” said Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, head of Chabad of California, which is organizing the event, which will also include musical performances by The Shira Orchestra and Chader Menachem Boys Choir

Garcetti, Councilman Paul Koretz and other elected officials and dignitaries will take part in the lighting of the 17th century Katowitz Menorah, 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 Jew, 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.

Hanukkah begins at sundown Wednesday, but the ceremony is being held today because few people are expected to be at City Hall Wednesday because of Thanksgiving, according to Chabad, a community-based nonprofit organization which offers many programs to help the needy of all backgrounds and beliefs.

Chabad says it runs the largest network of educational and nonsectarian social services under Jewish auspices on the West Coast.

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.

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.

A two-hour pop-up desert cafe, “Thanksgivvukah Cafe” will be open from 1 p.m.-3 p.m., or until supplies run out, at the former Fred Harvey Restaurant at Union Station, serving pumpkin jam sufganiyot, rugelach pecan pie and cranberry gelt Bavarian cream.

Recipe cards for the deserts will also be distributed.

The event is free and open to the public. There is a limit of one dessert per person.

The cafe is part of Metro Presents, Metro’s new program of arts and cultural events.

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 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.

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