Congregation Beth Shalom, The Center for Jewish Life in greater Stanislaus County and the Central Valley based in Modesto, has announced that they will hold a public lighting ceremony of the Chanukah Menorah in downtown Oakdale on Thursday night, Dec. 29 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in front of the Bianchi Community Center at 110 S. Second Ave.
The event is free, for all ages, rain or shine, and will feature the lighting of a five-foot tall Menorah, holiday songs and distributing holiday treats.
Chanukah is an eight-day Jewish holiday celebrating religious freedom; it dates back to more than 2,175 years ago. The main observance of the holiday is the lighting of candles shortly after sunset. The tradition is to light the Chanukah Menorah (candelabrum), to publicize the miraculous story of the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of victory of the Maccabees. According to the Talmud, a small jar of oil, with only enough oil for one night, lasted eight days allowing for new consecrated oil to be prepared for the Temple’s Menorah. The holiday is also known as the Festival of Lights. The holiday follows the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar and this year started on Saturday night, Dec. 24 and the last night will be Saturday night, Dec. 31. This particular timing of the winter holiday won’t re-occur for more than 20 years.
Last year’s Chanukah event at the Bianchi Center is believed to be the first public Jewish celebration to ever occur in Oakdale. More than a dozen people attended the holiday celebration at the community center in Oakdale and over 100 people participated in last year’s event in downtown Modesto.
Each year the holiday overlaps with the new moon, and thereby always includes the darkest nights of the year. A main message of the holiday, according to Rabbi Shalom Bochner who serves as the rabbi for the congregation, “is the power of light over darkness, the triumph of hope over despair. While Chanukah is a minor Jewish festival, it has great appeal and meaning for many people.”
Congregation Beth Shalom is the only Jewish congregation in Stanislaus County and the greater Modesto area. As the Center for Jewish Life, they provide a wide variety of cultural, educational, holiday, and social programs for the diverse Jewish population and the local community.