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SIMI VALLEY : Menorah Erected at Reagan Library

The day after the last American hostage was freed, a specially designed 9-foot-tall electric menorah was erected by representatives from Chabad of Ventura County at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in a brief ceremony Thursday morning.

“This menorah is an appropriate symbol,” said Rabbi Yakov Latowicz, regional director of the Ventura Chabad. “The Reagan Administration contributed to the winds of freedom that are now blowing throughout the world and made possible a modern-day Hanukkah miracle which occurred in the Soviet Union last Sunday.”

According to Rabbi Moshe Bryski, executive director of Chabad of the Conejo, “Thousands of Soviet Jews, who three to five years ago were persecuted for religious observances, were permitted to gather in the Congressional Palace of the Kremlin to light a Hanukkah menorah.”

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, occurs in December and is observed for eight days by Jews worldwide beginning at sunset on the 25th of Kislev through sundown on the second of Tevet in the Jewish year.

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The holiday celebrates the recapture of the temple in Jerusalem from the Syrian Greeks in 139 B.C. According to legend, the Jews found only enough oil to keep the eternal light in the temple burning for one day, but the oil miraculously lasted eight days.

The aluminum menorah, commissioned by the Chabad centers of the Conejo and San Fernando valleys, was built in New York and will stand in the museum lobby, with a Christmas tree to be added later this month, said museum curator Ann Bethel. The menorah will be exhibited every year, library director Ralph Bledsoe said.

Bledsoe acknowledged that as a federally owned and operated facility, the library cannot hold religious or social ceremonies. “But we can certainly celebrate historical and cultural traditions,” he said. “And these are some of the symbols of our holiday season.”

“Hopefully, through these symbols, we can remember the people whose voices were raised crying for freedom,” he said.

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