Menorah lighting ceremony celebrates first night of Hanukkah in SLO
SLO County’s Jewish community, along with friends and neighbors, came together in Mission Plaza on Sunday evening to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah in light of recent tragedy.
“To be outside, hearing our traditional songs belted out or being learned for the first time is music to my ears,” said Lauren Bandari, the director of the JCC Federation of San Luis Obispo. She estimated the celebration has grown to about 300 people this year.
The JCC Federation of San Luis Obispo hosts the annual event to kick off the holiday, which lasts for eight nights.
At the forefront of this year’s celebration was the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October. In a speech at the event, Bandari noted that the ceremony fell exactly 30 days after that tragedy, and also followed the recent devastating wildfires in Northern and Southern California and the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks.
“I feel like the Jewish community in SLO really shows up,” said Joan Hurwit, 31, who was watching the event. She noted the feeling of vulnerability that comes with being part of the community, and how they come together to show support. “I want to show up for them because they show up.”
The celebration included a menorah lighting, led by Rabbi Janice Mehring of the Congregation Ohr Tzafon synagogue in Atascadero. After the candles were lit, the rabbi led the crowd in a song about peace, as well as other traditional Hanukkah songs.
The event continued afterward with games, crafts and treats.
The menorah in Mission Plaza will be lit every night of the holiday at 5 p.m., though the lighting will begin at 5:30 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 8, the organizers said.