Hanukkah celebrated on Santa Fe Plaza
For Rabbi Berel Levertov, the lighting of the menorah on the Plaza on Sunday did not just signify the first day of the annual Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, but the power of light to overcome the darkness.
“You give light, you get light,” the rabbi of the Santa Fe Jewish Center-Chabad said during Sunday’s menorah lighting, which drew about 250 people despite temperatures dropping below freezing.
Mayor Alan Webber, who is Jewish, agreed. Webber, who helped light the menorah, told the assembly that Hanukkah is “one of the most beautiful holidays, such a festival of hope and happiness and rededication.
“It is the holiday of lights.”
The eight-day celebration of Hanukkah pays tribute to two events that are considered miracles in the Jewish tradition: First, the victory of a small band of Jews over the Syrian Greek army to maintain the right to study and celebrate their religion around 168 B.C., and the power of a small parcel of oil, intended to light a menorah to celebrate that event for one night, but that instead lasted for eight nights.
“That oil didn’t last eight days,” Levertov said Sunday. “It lasted 2,157 years. Its message is that though sometimes we lose faith, we can persevere.”
The excitement of Sunday’s lighting was a welcome relief for many, coming only weeks after a gunman killed 11 worshippers at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh.
The holiday celebration in Santa Fe was preceded by traditional Jewish folk songs — including the dreidel song — and brief proclamations by Levertov, Webber and a group of children who explained the significance of the holiday to the assembly.
Following the lighting, Levertov led a string of people in a festive dance around the menorah. He said each night an additional light will be ignited until all the lights are burning brightly. He added this is the 20th year that Jewish faith leaders and followers have celebrated the menorah event on the Plaza.
“It is incredible to see how the City of Holy Faith embraces Jews, all in the spirit of perseverance,” he said.
He said the symbolism of the menorah is for everyone, regardless of their faith. “It teaches us how important spirituality is … how we can brighten the world with a smile and a good word.”