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Nanaimo’s Jewish community lights first candle as Hanukkah begins

Menorah-lighting ceremony held Sunday, Dec. 18, at Maffeo Sutton Park
Rabbi Bentzi Shemtov of Chabad of Nanaimo lights a candle on the menorah at Maffeo Sutton Park to mark the start of Hanukkah on Sunday, Dec. 18. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo’s oversized menorah has been lit to mark the start of Hanukkah.

The city’s Jewish community gathered Sunday, Dec. 18, at Maffeo Sutton Park, for the first of eight nights of Hanukkah.

Rabbi Bentzi Shemtov of Chabad of Nanaimo compared the occasion to nuclear fusion – bonding together to create good energy.

“We’re standing here on the first night of Hanukkah, in the year of Hakhel – the year of gathering – the year where we have to remember that it’s not by separating ourselves that we’re going to get to where we need to get, it’s by coming together,” the rabbi said.

A press release earlier in the week from Chabad of Nanaimo stressed the importance of this year’s public Hanukkah celebration “as a response to the worrisome rise in antisemitic rhetoric online and elsewhere” and Shemtov said the response to hatred must never to be to cower or hide one’s faith.

“I consider the rise of antisemitism, particularly in the United States, and I think to myself how lucky we are to be here in Canada,” said Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog. “We gather here in peace and security and freedom and we are lucky … Enjoy the light, enjoy the season, enjoy one another.”

Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo MLA, wished happy Hanukkah on behalf of the B.C. government and Premier David Eby. She said Jewish people in Canada have set an example with regards to caring for one another and investing in community.

“On one of the very, very darkest days of the year … we are here to light a light together, to bring that light to the community, to bring the light inside,” Malcolmson said. “It’s a real emblem for all of us.”

Nanaimo RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue were on hand at the menorah-lighting ceremony and assistant fire chief David Dales offered eight tips for fire safety during Hanukkah, including keeping the menorah out of the reach of children and pets and never leaving a lighted menorah unattended.

Krog lit the middle candle of the 2.7-metre menorah and Shemtov lit another to mark the first night of Hanukkah. According to the press release, the festival recalls the victory of Jewish people against Syrian-Greek forces in ancient Israel, and the miracle of a jar of oil in the temple lasting for eight days when it should have lasted just one.

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READ ALSO: Nanaimo’s first-ever Torah scroll completed with 300,000 handwritten letters

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About the Author: Greg Sakaki

I have been in the community newspaper business for two decades, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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