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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lights for joy and freedom

People celebrate Hanukkah, watch lighting of menorah candles at Esther Short Park

By Craig Brown
Columbian staff writer

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of the Lights, began a week ago today. But with a foot of snow in Esther Short Park, the annual community Hanukkah celebration had to be canceled.

So that’s why on Sunday evening, when the crowd finally gathered, Rabbi Shmulik Greenberg lit all of the candles in the menorah. “Finally the weather let us do it,” Greenberg said shortly before the rescheduled event, which drew about 60 people to a pleasantly dry, snow-free Propstra Square.

With Hanukkah ending tonight, there is still plenty of time to light the menorah and say the blessings, said Greenberg.

Hanukkah commemorates events that occurred 2,000 years ago. But the context of those events — freedom of worship, and freedom from terror — resonates in today’s world, noted Greenberg and Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, who also spoke.

Even as we celebrate the holidays, we must not forget the dangers and evil in the world, the mayor said, and we must act to protect our freedoms and liberties.

Parallel between then, now
Greenberg drew a parallel between the ancient conflict that sparked Hanukkah and last month’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. Authorities there have blamed the attacks on Islamic fundamentalists.

“India became more and more a part of the Western world, a place where there is freedom of religion,” Greenberg said. That spawned a violent response from those who regard such freedoms as evil. Among other targets, the terrorists attacked Nariman House, Mumbai headquarters of the Chabad Lubavitch movement. Sunday’s event was sponsored by Chabad Lubavitch of Clark County.

The menorah lighting took about 20 minutes. After Greenberg and Pollard spoke briefly, state Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, was asked to light the center candle. “God is the same today as he was yesterday,” Zarelli said.

From left to right, the rabbi then lit the other eight candles — actually, in this case, the sort of torches people use on their patios in the summer — one for each day of the celebration.

A group of a dozen or so children sang a traditional song, hesitant at first as their tongues tripped over the foreign words. As they switched to a song with more familiar English lyrics, they warmed to their task.

Then the group adjourned to the nearby Hilton Vancouver Washington for a party featuring latkes (potato pancakes) and a “Grand Dreidel Tournament,” a game played with a four-sided spinning top.

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