Congregation Beth Shalom, The Center for Jewish Life in greater Stanislaus County and the Central Valley based in Modesto, has announced that they will host 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 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 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. More than 100 people participated in last year’s event in downtown Modesto. This year the congregation will also offer public lighting events in downtown Modesto on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 5 p.m. at 10th Street Plaza followed by a Chanukah Party at the congregation at 6:30 p.m.; at CSU Stanislaus in Turlock in the Main Quad on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 4:30 p.m.; at McHenry Village in Modesto on Friday, Dec. 11 at 4:30 p.m., and at Tracy City Hall Plaza on Sunday, Dec. 13 at 4:30 p.m.
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.” Other Chanukah events scheduled for this year include the popular Latke and Vodkas fundraiser event on Saturday night, Dec. 5 which will feature the Kyle Barker Band, and Shabbat Chanukah Services on Friday, Dec. 11 and Saturday, Dec. 12.
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.
For more information, contact the congregation at: (209) 571-6062.