The longest night of the year got a brightening Sunday with the lighting of the menorah at The Marketplace.
Hundreds crowded around Rabbi Shmuel Schlanger as he invited children to the front and prepared the crowd for the celebration.
“It’s freezing!” he said. “It reminds me of Moscow, back where I was not born.”
Intermixed with the jokes, the candles, the balloon animals and the songs was a little sadness. The lighting was dedicated to the victims of last month’s attacks in Mumbai, in particular Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, who were serving the Jewish community in India.
“Tonight we vow to counter the senseless hate with unconditional love,” Schlanger said. The menorah, he said, “symbolizes Hannukah’s bold message of never give up.”
This is the sixth year that Chabad of Bakersfield has lit its public menorah.
Schlanger followed the lighting with songs in both Hebrew and English while he played guitar.
He confessed to being a little more tired than at previous menorah lightings, because he and his wife got an early Hannukah present just a few days ago — a baby boy.
Resident Olivia Ramirez said she has a menorah at home, but was glad to come out for the public event.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “Everyone can get together whether they’re Jewish or not.”