Downtown Reno menorah lit on first day of HannukahCha lang.jpg

Mikaela  has a Star of David painted on her face Sunday during the menorah-lighting ceremony in downtown Reno. The event was open to all members of the community regardless of religion or creed.

 

By Jason Hidalgo • jhidalgo@rgj.com • December 22, 2008

Lights, latkes and a little music lit up a small corner of downtown Reno during the traditional lighting of a giant menorah on Sunday, the first day of Hanukkah and winter.

The lighting occurred against the backdrop of downtown Reno's skating rink and attracted a diverse mix of participants from near and far.

Risa Lang arrived with three generations of family members from Carson City.

"It's just nice to be able to celebrate together," Lang said, as her two kids excitedly walked around her.

Lang's 9-year-old son, Spencer, flashed a wide smile as he eyed the goodies at a nearby table, which included traditional food such as latkes. Spencer was especially keen on sampling the doughnuts.

"I've never had them," Spencer said. "So I'm looking forward to trying them."

The menorah lighting plays a key role in the celebration of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. The lighting commemorates a miracle in ancient times when a day's supply of consecrated oil burned for eight days during the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

"It symbolizes the victory over darkness," said Rabbi Mendel Cunin of Chabad of Northern Nevada. "Part of this celebration is to publicize the miracle of how people back then won the freedom to practice their religion. It was a breakthrough for all religions to come."

To honor the spirit of what Jews consider a landmark event in their history, the downtown menorah lighting was open to all members of the community regardless of religion or creed. Lang's husband, Steve, who isn't a member of a particular religion, considered the gesture a good move.

"Religions in general are supposed to be all-inclusive,

all-inviting and open-minded," said Steve Lang, as he stood next to a family guest from Italy. "Inviting people of other faiths provides a great opportunity to teach people about (the holiday)."

Mangal Dipty, a 55-year-old Christian visiting from India, also lauded the openness of the event. Dipty said it was a great way for people to learn about each other.

"Doing something like this is a great way to develop unity and promote positive feelings," Dipty said. "It allows us to see not just the differences we have but also the similarities that we share."

The unity Dipty mentioned was in plain view as a torch was passed to light candles. With chilly winds blowing out the flickering flames being nursed by some participants, others quickly stepped up and offered their own flames to light the blown out candles.

Although the lighting of the menorah commemorates an event from long ago, its lessons still hold true today, Cunin said. The message of the menorah lighting is especially fitting now given tough economic times and all the problems people face, not just in the United States but all around the world.

"We hope people who watch the celebration take the message for themselves and add more light to their life," Cunin said. "If you add one more candle, just one more push (to the challenges you face), then you can overcome anything."