Menorah lighting started on Sunday on Ashland Plaza, events continue through the week
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
Light over darkness, goodness over evil, love over hate.
That was the central message of the public lighting of a 10-foot menorah on Sunday afternoon on Ashland Plaza. The Plaza was abuzz with music, a traditional coin toss, and a Chanukah message by Rabbi Avi Zweibel, director of the Chabad Jewish Center. Jewish residents celebrated a universal message about light overcoming darkness on the first day of the Jewish holiday, also spelled Hanukkah, which runs through Monday, Dec. 26.
“Chanukah is a holiday that enriches our lives with the light of tradition,” Zwiebel said, in a news release. “In ancient times our ancestors rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem with the Menorah. Today, we rededicate ourselves to making this world a better and brighter place. Chanukah propagates the universal message that ultimately good will prevail over evil, freedom over oppression and light over darkness. Today, this message is needed more than ever.”
Chanukah commemorates a time when ancient Jews in Israel were experiencing religious oppression by the Syrian Greeks.
“There was a small group of Maccabees who fought them and were miraculously victorious,” Zweibel told Ashland.news, in an interview Monday.
Maccabees poured a one-day supply of oil into a great menorah and rekindled the menorah that had been desecrated and extinguished by their enemy. The small amount of oil did not burn out at the end of the first day, but continued to burn continuously for eight days, until the special process for preparing new oil could be completed.
“(It) symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. That message is relevant to all times, especially now,” Zweibel said. “The message is always to light another candle, do another good act of good deed, and that act of good deed, the ‘mitzvah,’ can turn things around … good will prevail over evil.”
Zweibel, who has served as a rabbi in Ashland for 19 years, estimated a couple hundred people fill the Plaza every year for the lighting, but was uncertain about the amount for this year’s celebration.
“We had a coin drop this year,” Zweibel said, noting that it helps include the children in the celebration. “We dropped hundreds of chocolate coins. We haven’t done that in a while.
“Every year we try to just do it better and better,” he added.
State Sen. Jeff Golden (D-Ashland) and Ashland Mayor Julie Akins also took part in the celebration.
Chabad is dedicated to spreading light and goodness in the Rogue Valley and bringing the joy of Chanukah to all, showcased by their outreach to other areas within southern Oregon.
Zweibel also participated in a Hanukkah menorah lighting on Monday afternoon in Grants Pass and a menorah lighting is planned at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in Vogel Plaza, outside the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theatre in Medford. Zweibel said the Grants Pass menorah lighting started up in 2020 and the Medford lighting started several years ago, for those who wish to attend a Hanukkah celebration but cannot travel to Ashland.
In other Chanukah events planned this week, a pop-up New York deli will be available at Chabad Jewish Center, 1474 Siskiyou Blvd., from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday in Ashland. Authentic New York pastrami sandwiches, matzah ball soup, kugel, latkes and doughnuts will be served up to the accompaniment of Hanukkah music. Lighting of the menorah will take place at 6 p.m. and dreidel games will also be available.
Because of the great significance of oil in the story of Chanukah, it is traditional to serve foods cooked in oil, according to Zweibel. Among the most popular are delicious potato latkes.
At 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 25, Zweibel will host a final event where all eight candles of the Menorah are lit on the Plaza. Latkes and doughnuts will be served and the event is open to the public.
Chabad Jewish Center of Southern Oregon joins thousands of Chabad centers across the globe staging similar public displays of the menorah and its symbolic lights. From Australia to Africa, Columbia to Hong Kong, New York City’s ground zero to the White House lawn, hundreds of thousands will experience the joy of Chanukah with Chabad, according to a news release.
When asked about the importance of celebrating Hanukkah with public lighting of menorahs, Zweibel said, “It’s very in the American spirit of religious freedom, which we’re so blessed to have here.”
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at email@example.com.