People lit candles on menorahs for Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, during a special service Friday night at Temple Beth Israel in northwest Fresno. The candelabras are lit during the eight-day holiday (which is spelled several different ways, including “Chanukah”), which celebrates the Maccabees’ victory over the Syrians in the second century B.C.
“We share with many cultures the tradition of lighting up the darkest part of the year,” says Rabbi Rick Winer of Temple Beth Israel. “We bless and light our Hanukkah menorahs, called ‘Chanukiyot,’ to commemorate the festival and sing Hanukkah songs. The minor festival has greatly developed with the commercial development of other winter festivals.
“Hanukkah is about religious freedom. The Maccabees fought to be able to live freely as Jews. One of the great strengths of modern America is freedom for all religions and cultures, which is why we especially guard the rights of everyone to celebrate their unique identities.”
Congregation Beth Jacob, 406 W. Shields Ave., Fresno, will be lighting menorahs and singing songs during a celebration at 5 p.m. Sunday. Chabad of Fresno will also have a menorah lighting, along with food and singing, on Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. outside of Party City, 7374 N. Blackstone Ave., Fresno. Rabbi Levy Zirkind with Chabad of Fresno says he chose to do a menorah lighting away from the synagogue because Hanukkah is also about bringing “brightness into the darkness of the streets.”