Angel Pacheco, News-Press
A cheer erupted from a crowd gathered at La Cumbre Plaza as a Unity Menorah was lit on Sunday night, the first of eight nights celebrating the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
The Chabad of Santa Barbara menorah lighting was part of Unite the Lights, a national campaign to remember the attacks last month in Mumbai, India, by Islamic extremists that resulted in the death of 173 people and targeted the city’s Chabad House.
Community members decorated wooden cut-outs that were placed on the base of the menorah, and ate a Hanukkah staple, latkes.
Rabbi Yosef Loschak encouraged those in attendance to take their own menorah out when they got home and light it. “As you light the menorah, you make those blessings, you look at those small, flickering candles … you will recognize that this light is just not a physical light, but it is a spiritual light,” he said. “Each and every mitzvah that we perform, each and every good deed that we perform, brings that much more light to this world.”
Of the festivities, Rabbi Zalmy Kudan said: “Today we come out in public at La Cumbre Plaza to show that we are proud that we are in a country and in a place where we are able to celebrate religious freedom and be proud of who we are as Jews, and as human beings, be able to celebrate with God.”
Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum assisted in the ceremony, and Seth Olitzky, who lost his Coyote Road home in the Tea Fire, lit one of the candles.
Soon after his home burned, he was contacted by Rabbi Kudan, who offered to let him stay at the Chabad House in Goleta, Mr. Olitzky said.
“We stayed there for four days … I’m indebted to them forever,” he told the News-Press.
People of all ages were sticking wooden tiles cut out in shapes, such as sailboats and airplanes, onto the menorah, and the one 9-year-old Riva Brody decorated was shaped like a teddy bear.
When asked what her favorite part of Hanukkah is, she quickly replied, “opening presents.”
She was there along with her family, including her mom Jana, who hung a tile that read “shalom bayit,” meaning “peace in the home.”
“We’ve been coming out for at least 9 years — since she’s been born – and every year they do a different theme,” she said. “One year they built a Lego one; one year it was made out of (canned food) for the homeless. … It’s an interactive project this year, so it’s very nice.”