Hosted by the Chabad of Bakersfield, the local Jewish community came together to celebrate the first night of Chanukah and witnessed the 16th Annual Public Menorah lighting at the Marketplace on Dec. 5.
More than 50 attendees celebrated over traditional pastries, dreidels, and live music and dancing.
Rabbi Shmuel Schlanger expressed his gratitude to see so many new faces at this year’s event. Schlanger gave a brief history of Chanukah and explained the holiday is a commemoration of the Jewish fighters’ victory, known as the Maccabees, over the Syrian Greeks who had ruled over their land for more than 2000 years.
The two groups went to war after the Greeks tried to suppress the Jew’s practice of religion.
The celebration also recounts the story of a God-given miracle that dates back to the early years of the Jewish religion. After the war, the Maccabees wanted to light the temple’s seven branch candle labrum but only had enough oil for one night. According to the Jewish faith, a miracle allowed the oil to burn for eight days. Each candle on the menorah represented each day the candles burned.
This year’s menorah lighting conveyed a very personal and encouraging message.
“The light tells us the Jewish people will survive even in the darkest times, and that we can bring light to others not only during this holiday but every day,” Schlanger said.
Jessica Haikimiam has been coming to the menorah lighting since she was born.
“The Jewish community in Bakersfield is very close, so I consider all of the people here family, Haikimiam said. “At my school, there are only a few Jewish kids, so it’s nice when we all come together like this.”