Pleasanton Weekly

News - December 3, 2010

'Balloon' menorah lit for Chanukah at Stoneridge

More Jewish celebrations to take place this weekend

The Chabad of the Tri-Valley hosted its sixth annual "Chanukah Wonderland" on Wednesday evening in the Stoneridge Shopping Center in a public festival that included holiday games, crafts, live music and Chanukah treats and activities -- and a nine-foot menorah made of blue and white balloons.

Another menorah will be lit Saturday evening in front of the Bankhead Theater in Livermore by Mayor Marshall Kamena right after he lights the downtown Christmas tree. And Tri-Valley Cultural Jews (TVCJ) are also invited to celebrate Hanukkah on Sunday at the Bothwell Center in Livermore. (Note that Jewish groups spell Chanukah/Hanukkah differently.)

Rabbi Raleigh Resnick, Chabad of the Tri-Valley's director, said the 1,100-balloon menorah at Stoneridge mall is something new, designed and constructed by Party Fiesta in San Jose and paid for by contributions from the local Jewish community, with families contributing $100 per foot of the menorah.

"The opening Chanukah celebration is run and sponsored by Chabad of the Tri-Valley to encourage the community to 'spread the light,' the primary message of Chanukah," Resnick added. "Chanukah reminds us that a little light can defeat an empire of darkness, human goodness can defy terror and brute force, and life and spiritual vitality can overcome destruction."

The celebration lasts for eight nights, and Resnick hopes the balloons will last that long.

"They polished the balloons with a certain spray that's supposed to keep it from deflating," he said. "If we see that it's starting to look shriveled up, we will replace it with a beautiful nine-foot structure we have that goes up in Stoneridge every year."

Resnick explained that the Chabad of the Tri-Valley's menorah joins a national and worldwide tradition of public Chanukah menorah displays and candle lighting ceremonies inspired by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. They have become commonplace from the White House to the Kremlin, from Berlin's Brandenburg Gate to the Eiffel Tower and Universal Studios' theme parks, and now, Stoneridge Shopping Center.

According to the Chabad World Headquarters, Chabad-Lubavitch will ignite more than 11,000 large public Menorahs throughout the world this Chanukah.

The Chabad will also host Chanukah Under the Stars tomorrow night at the Bankhead Theater, 2400 First St., as part of Livermore's holiday parade and celebration. The menorah will be lit at approximately 7:30 p.m., and festivities will include latkes, holiday treats, music and dancing.

Monday morning the Chabad is joining with the Pleasanton Public Library to offer Chanukah Story Hour from 6-7 p.m.

"It's a story hour for children 8 and under," Resnick said.

The interactive hour will include puppets, Chanukah crafts, music and a special menorah lighting.

Resnick said that Chanukah, the eight day Festival of Lights, recalls the victory more than 2,100 years ago of a militarily weak but spiritually strong Jewish people (the Macabees), over the forces of an enemy that had overrun ancient Israel and sought to impose restrictions on the Jewish way of life, prohibit religious freedom and force the Jewish people to accept a foreign religion. More information is available at www.JewishTriValley.com.

Jews are also being invited to celebrate Hanukkah on Sunday at the Bothwell Center with the Tri-Valley Cultural Jews (TVCJ). Spokeswoman Kristie Wang said the celebration will include a secular candle-lighting ceremony, as well as games and crafts for kids and adults.

"We will make latkes together, so please bring a potato to grate," she said. "We will eat latkes and play dreidel. We have adopted a family through Jewish family services, so please contact us at Culturaljews@aol.com to coordinate a donation."

She said participants will make wrapping paper for the gifts to be presented to the adopted family at the party.

The Hanukkah Celebration for Tri-Valley Cultural Jews will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Bothwell Center, 2466 Eighth St. in Livermore.

According to Wang, the Tri-Valley Cultural Jews is a Secular Humanistic community serving those who identify with the Jewish people through family, culture and history, rather than through religion. It serves the Greater East Bay with holiday celebrations, opportunities to express progressive social values, and education for children, adults and families.

TVCJ is affiliated with the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations.

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