Spreading light, one candle at a time

NEWPORT BEACH — In a season where neighbors compete for the biggest and brightest holiday displays, the message for youngsters Tuesday night was that a little bit of light can go a long way.

Hundreds of participants gathered in Fashion Island's Atrium Garden Court for the 4:30 p.m. Chanukah Community Party, hosted by the Chabad Jewish Center of Newport Beach, and the lighting of the 6-foot "Surf 'n' Sand" menorah with former Dodger Shawn Green.

"The significance of holiday is about spreading light," said Rabbi Reuven Mintz of the Chabad center. "When we come together, we're all reminded of the miracles of the past and the ability of each one us as lamp-lighter when we reach out and kindle someone who is downtrodden, depressed or going through hardship. Everyone is empowered to be a lamp-lighter and light lives with goodness, peace and love."

Children enjoyed face-painting and holiday crafts such as creating dreidels out of marshmallows.

While the event was packed with entertainment, including from the Latin-inspired musical group Los Judeos Locos, it also served to educate and bring together both Jewish and non-Jewish members of the community.

"In school, they don't teach anything about Hanukkah, so it's kind of fading. Some kids don't even know about it," said Angela Leider, 13, of Santiago Middle School in Orange. "All religions are important in general, and something that everyone should learn a little about."

Tuesday marked the first night of Hanukkah, in which the first of eight candles was lit. The act of lighting one of the candles each evening symbolizes the miracle where one container of oil lasted eight days.

Although the event's youngest participants may not understand the historical and religious significance of the holiday, there's still a message they can learn from the steadily burning candles, said Rabbi Sender Engel of the Silver Gan Israel Day Camp in Huntington Beach.

"I think that the idea of Hanukkah is that a little light can push away a lot of darkness," Engel said. "In a day and age such as we are in, any light that we can share with children is a positive thing."

While the "Surf 'n' Sand" menorah — decorated with faux shells, sunglasses and other beach-themed ornaments — was anything but traditional, the lessons symbolized by it are thousands of years old.

"The more they see it, the more they will understand," Engel said of the youth audience. "The lesson learned is that you start with one candle, and every night you add another candle. Certainly, here is a message that children can understand: We can do a lot by adding a little bit each day."


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