Fashion Island and the Chabad Center for Jewish Life began the traditional eight-day celebration of Hanukkah with a menorah-lighting ceremony at the Newport Beach mall’s Atrium Court.
Sunday’s festivities included music, gifts, Hanukkah crafts, face painting, balloon animals and a toy drive. Hanukkah continues through Dec. 30.
A menorah is a candelabrum used to commemorate the victory in the second century B.C. by a small group of Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, that drove the Seleucid army from the Holy Land and reclaimed and rededicated the temple in Jerusalem.
When the Jews sought to light the temple’s menorah, they found only a one-day supply of sacred oil. However, it lasted eight days. Thus, the typical Hanukkah menorah has eight branches with an additional branch with which the others are lit.
Sean Boulton, principal of Newport Harbor High School, lit the first branch Sunday, accompanied by Rabbi Reuven Mintz of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life, based in Newport Beach.
In March, Newport Harbor High was embroiled in controversy over an incident involving anti-Semitic symbolism. Photos from an off-campus party attended by students from Newport Harbor and other local schools showed teenagers giving Nazi salutes around a swastika made of red plastic cups during a drinking game.
The incident sparked nationwide outrage and led to several local community meetings, formation of a Newport-Mesa Unified School District Human Relations Task Force and other measures intended to promote tolerance and inclusion.