Local menorah lighting reflects recent revolutions

Chabad Jewish Center hosts ceremony in Esther Short Park

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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To see more photographs of the menorah lighting, visit http://columbian.com/multimedia

To learn more about the Chabad Jewish Center, visit http://www.chabadclarkcounty.com.

The flame that burns in the Hanukkah menorah is the same flame that burns in the hearts of the young revolutionaries who threw off dictatorship across north Africa and the Middle East this year.

At least, Rabbi Shmulik Greenberg hopes so. Greenberg, of the Chabad Jewish Center of Clark County, led the Tuesday night lighting of the menorah in Vancouver’s Esther Short Park with some hopeful thoughts on seizing freedom.

He reminded the 200 or so people in attendance that Hanukkah is, at root, a festival of freedom. The joyous Jewish holiday celebrates the unlikely victory of a small band of Maccabees over the Syrian King Antioch in the year 165 B.C., the subsequent rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem — and, chiefly, the miracle that occurred during that rededication, as one night’s worth of oil burned for eight nights.

Because of that, Hanukkah is known as the “festival of lights” and involves lighting a menorah candle on each of the eight nights of the holiday — plus a ninth central candle.

Greenberg said it’s been hard to know whether to believe in this year’s “Arab Spring” revolutions among Israel’s neighbors. Will they ultimately bring “more light, more peace, more goodness and kindness?” he wondered.

“God help these revolutionaries to bring more light and more peace,” he said.

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt was on hand to light the first menorah candle. He said he was proud that Vancouver is such a welcoming city and that he believes in “a triumph of light over dark” and of spirit over materialism.

The ceremony was capped off with songs led by New York children’s performer Bobby Doowah. Doowah encouraged children to dance in a circle, then hustled the crowd inside the nearby Hilton Vancouver Washington, where a banquet room contained food, games and more singing and dancing.

There are about 4,500 Jews in Clark County, and two main congregations: Congregation Kol Ami, which is a reform group, and Chabad Lubavitch, which is Orthodox. Greenberg said Chabad Lubavitch is a movement dedicated to nurturing Judaism around the world.

Chabad Jewish Center of Clark County is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to Jewish education and culture.