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Lighting up a holiday tradition

Molly Shore

At shortly before sundown Friday, Jews throughout the city lighted

the first candle on the Hanukkah menorah, signifying the beginning of

the eight-day Festival of Lights.


In a religious sense, Hanukkah is not a major holiday on the

Jewish calendar. Culturally, however, it is a festive time when

families and friends gather to light the menorah, spin a top called a

dreidel, sing songs and feast on potato latkes with sour cream and



In years past, children received fruits and nuts and Hanukkah gelt

-- usually a 50-cent piece -- from adults. But in recent years, the

holiday has taken on the Christmas tradition of exchanging gifts.

Hanukkah offers freedom that every human being deserves, said

Rabbi Shmuly Kornfeld, spiritual leader of Chabad of Burbank.

“The message of Hanukkah is the ability to be able to experience

your religion in an environment that allows you to be comfortable


with it,” Kornfeld said.

The holiday, he added, also offers a message of hope for

non-Jewish people.

“The light of the menorah gives us hope that no matter how dark a

situation in our life may seem, a little bit of light can illuminate

a lot of darkness,” he said.

The historical significance goes back thousands of years to 168

BC. According to Talmudic legend, a tyrannical Syrian king sent his


soldiers to Jerusalem to drive the Jews out of their temple. Three

years later, the Jews defeated the king’s army and reclaimed their

synagogue. When it was time to rededicate the temple, only enough oil

for one night was left, but miraculously, the oil lasted for eight

nights, thus the eight nights of celebration and lighting candles.

Kornfeld invites the community to celebrate Hanukkah festivities

with him and members of his congre- gation from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Sunday on the grass field at Roosevelt Elementary School, 850 N.

Cordova St., where the city’s tallest menorah will stand.