Congregation Beth Shalom, The Center for Jewish Life in greater Stanislaus County and the Central Valley based in Modesto, hosted a public lighting ceremony of the Chanukah Menorah in downtown Oakdale on Sunday night, Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. at the Bianchi Community Center Plaza. The event featured the lighting of a five-foot tall Menorah, holiday songs and distributing holiday treats.
Chanukah is an 8-day Jewish holiday celebrating religious freedom; it dates back to more than 2,170 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 starts on Sunday night, Dec. 6 and the last night will be Sunday night, Dec. 13.
While family celebrations of Chanukah have occurred in the region since before the founding of a local Jewish congregation in the early 1920s, this year’s public outdoor event is believed to be the first community-wide celebration to ever occur in Oakdale.
Each year the holiday overlaps with the new moon, and thereby always includes one of 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.”
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.