The Chabad Jewish Community Center of Riverside’s annual Hanukkah festival will return to the steps of the Riverside Historic Courthouse next month, featuring a Menorah lighting, singing, dancing and a collective welcome to the synagogue’s newest member — the rabbi’s infant daughter.

Rabbi Shmuel Fuss is extending an open invitation to residents of Riverside and surrounding communities to attend the 18th annual festival, where his growing family will join him, along with members of the Riverside City Council, District Attorney Mike Hestrin, at least one Riverside County supervisor and other officials to mark the second night of Hanukkah on Dec. 19.

Fuss and his wife Tzippy announced the arrival of their seventh child earlier this month. The infant girl’s name will be publicly announced to the congregation this week, and she is expected to be with her siblings at the festival.

The two-hour event will be held at its traditional location, in front of the downtown courthouse.

It has only been relocated once since 2004, and that was during the coronavirus public health lockdowns of 2020, when the rabbi conducted a “mobile” festival in the parking lot of Riverside City College, where participants sat in their cars while he lit a menorah.

As in previous years, the Dec. 19 celebration will feature a “Grand Menorah Lighting,” during which a city official or other invited guest will light the candles of a gold-colored menorah that stands over 8 feet high. A Hasidic band will play a variety of music, and Fuss will lead guests in celebratory dancing. Food will be widely available.

The festival generally draws over 2,000 people.

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 for eight nights. The reason for the lights is so passers-by might see them and be reminded of the holiday’s miracle.

More information about the festival is available at www.ChanukahFestival.org.

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