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'Balloon' menorah to be lit today in Stoneridge Shopping Center to mark start of Chanukah

Tri Valley's Jewish community joins to celebrate 8-day 'festival of lights'

The Chabad of the Tri-Valley will host its 6th annual "Chanukah Wonderland" from 5:30-7:00 p.m. today in the Stoneridge Shopping Center in a public festival that will include holiday games, crafts, live music and Chanukah treats and activities.

Jews are also being invited to celebrate Hanukkah on Sunday at the Bothwell Center in Livermore with the Tri-Valley Cultural Jew (TVCJ)

Note that Jewish groups spell Chanukah/Hanukkah differently.

Rabbi Raleigh Resnick, Chabad of the Tri-Valley's director, said this year's wonderland at Stoneridge will include a 9-foot-high menorah made out of balloons.

A company has been hired to design and construct the balloon frame, but the funds for the creation of this menorah filled with air are being sponsored by the local Jewish community, with various families contributing $100 per foot of the menorah, Resnick said.

"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 formal program, to begin at 6:30 p.m., will include the lighting of the balloon menorah.

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.

Resnick said that Chanukah, the eight day Festival of Lights that starts Wednesday, recalls the victory more than 2100 years ago of a militarily weak but spiritually strong Jewish people (the Macabees), over the mighty forces of a ruthless 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 on www.JewishTriValley.com.

Jews are also being invited to celebrate Hanukkah Sunday at the Bothwell Center with the Tri-Valley Cultural Jew (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 8th 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.

--Jeb Bing

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