Ralph Labelson reached up to light the 12-foot-tall aluminum menorah he built while more than 500 people watched the symbolic beginning of the festival of Hanukkah on Sunday at the 2nd + PCH shopping center.
“It’s more important now than ever for the Jewish people to stand together in unity and show the world that our light will always defeat darkness,” said Rabbi Abba Perelmuter from Shul by the Shore. “The Jewish people have to stand vigilantly today. The world is going crazy, it’s just growing crazy.”
Hanukkah marks the miracle that occurred in the second century when Jewish freedom fighters known as the Maccabees reclaimed the Holy Temple from a Greco-Syrian monarch who ruled Israel.
The sanctuary of the temple was in shambles, torn apart by the Hellenic forces. The freedom fighters found only enough oil to light a lantern to read the Torah for one day. But the lantern blazed for eight full days. When Jews light the eight candles of the menorah on the eight nights of Hanukkah, they recite prayers extolling God for the miracle.
The menorah that now glows at the shopping center stands but a few yards from a two-story Christmas tree.
“It’s just coincidental that Christmas and Hanukkah happen at the same time,” said Rabbi Perelmuter. “Hanukkah preceded Christmas by 500 years.”
Perelemuter, who is known for his wit, joked, “In the United States we always want to outdo our Christian neighbors. Hey, we get EIGHT nights of presents, baby!”