Santa Rosa’s Hanukkah festival

May 5 / News

Santa Rosa’s Hanukkah festival celebrates with doughnuts, live music and a giant menorah. Ginger Schechter, who stood in a crowd at Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village for a Hanukkah celebration on Sunday, couldn’t wait to partake in her favorite tradition: Lighting the menorah.

“Light in our community signifies hope and being a light for the world,” Schechter, 55, said. “Hanukkah is the greatest example of ‘community’ in the Jewish community.”

Nearly 100 others danced, ate and celebrated around a giant white menorah, constructed for Sonoma County Chabad Jewish Center’s “Light Up The Night” Hanukkah celebration Sunday evening.

The festivities marked the first night of Hanukkah, an annual eight-day festival that began this year on Sunday and ends Dec. 26. The holiday is celebrated between late November and December.

Sunday’s festivities were hosted by the Chabad Jewish Center, which serves members of Sonoma County’s Jewish community through programs that promote cultural education, celebration, and community leading.

Behind the event’s giant menorah, the center’s Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky cheerfully danced in front of a crowd as a klezmer-style band played music. Kids sat excitedly at tables and colored and decorated menorahs and dreidels on paper, as a tall Christmas tree glowed behind them.

Families sitting outside munched on Sufganiyah, a round jelly doughnut eaten around the world on Hanukkah.

“Eating dessert signifies our community celebrating the ‘sweetness of life,’” Schechter shared.

People joyfully passed out blue dreidels, the four-sided tops with each side bearing a Hebrew letter.

Yosef Wolvovsky, 13, who wore a blue kippah — also known as a yarmulke — a brimless cap, snapped photos of the Sunday celebration made it apparent that one of his favorite parts about Hanukkah is indulging in fried food like potato latkes and jelly doughnuts.

“My favorite is getting to eat all the fried food!” said Wolvovsky, who lives in Santa Rosa. “There’s so many people here celebrating the same thing, it’s great.”

Hanukkah, also known as the Jewish Festival of Lights, honors the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century B.C. following victory over an occupying army, according to the Associated Press.

The festival commemorates the story of the miracle of light during the rededication of the Second Temple, when a menorah with only enough oil to keep burning for a day lasted for eight days. The story of the miracle of light became a foundation for this tradition.

Schechter, who moved from Ventura to Sonoma County in 2007, has celebrated with the center for at least 10 years, she said. The holiday, which she’s celebrated since she was a kid, serves as a special reminder for her.

“It reminds me of the light, hope, and resilience that exists in our community,” Schechter said.

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