More than 2,000 people are expected to gather in front of the Riverside Historic Courthouse on Monday for the Chabad Jewish Community Center’s 14th annual Hanukkah Festival, featuring dancing, singing and a little standup comedy.
The public event, marking the second night of Hanukkah, is set for 6-8 p.m. at Main and 10th streets.
“We had a record number of people last year, and we’ll do it again this year,” Chabad Rabbi Shmuel Fuss told City News Service. “We’ll be serving 2,500 latkes. That’s a lot of latkes!”
The rabbi said the event will be dedicated to firefighters, saluting them for efforts statewide — but particularly in the Inland Empire — to combat wildfires over the past year.
There will also be emphasis on the need to circumvent anti-semitism, in the wake of the attack on the Squirrel Hill Synagogue in Pittsburgh and other acts worldwide, according to Fuss.
“We’ll be highlighting the issues of the day,” he said. “And, as always, we will stress the need for building bridges of understanding in our community.”
The rabbi described the message of the eight-day holiday as one of “triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter, of light over darkness.”
The Hanukkah fest always includes the lighting of a 12-foot menorah, positioned in front of the century-old courthouse at 4050 Main St.
Fuss, who is known for comedic parables and wrangling his guests for celebratory dancing, will speak, along with Riverside City Council members and several Riverside County officials. Arts and crafts, kids’ activities and musical entertainment are also planned.
Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabees’ victory over a larger Syrian army in 165 B.C.
Once the Jews defeated the Hellenist forces at the end of a three-year rebellion, the temple in Jerusalem, which the occupiers had dedicated to the worship of Zeus, was re-dedicated in God’s honor by Judah Maccabee, who led the insurgency.
According to the story of Hanukkah, Maccabee and his soldiers wanted to light the temple’s ceremonial lamp with ritually pure olive oil as part of their re-dedication, but found only enough oil to burn for one day. The oil, however, burned for eight days in what was embraced as a miracle.
Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, is observed around the world by lighting candles at sundown. The reason for the lights is so passers-by should see them and be reminded of the holiday’s miracle.
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