The annual menorah lighting in downtown San Luis Obispo, which marks the start of Hanukkah, was for the many people in attendance a bright spot of hope in the aftermath of tragedy.
“It’s a time that has been dark for us but we still go out and spread light,” Rabbi Janice Mahring of Congregation Ohrtzafan said.
Mahring addressed the crowd Sunday from the steps of Mission Plaza, offering a message of perseverance and hope.
Jewish Community Center of SLO Director Lauren Bandari told the story of how Hanukkah celebrates the miracles Jews believe were brought to them during the uprising against their Greek-Syrian oppressors during the Maccabean Revolt.
“For eight days, throughout this Hanukkah, we celebrate the miracles of the oil lasting and the burning fire of the people that wanted to keep their religion alive,” Bandari said.
That message, to keep Judaism alive, was especially meaningful Sunday some five weeks after 11 Jews were murdered at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
“While we don’t forget those we lost, in our Jewish tradition, we have very set ways that we grieve and after 30 days or the end of shloshim, which is 30 in Hebrew, it’s the time when we get up again and start to live our lives again,” Mahring said.
David Wolf, a practicing Jew living in Los Osos, said the lighting of the Menorah is a symbol of hope that should be shared with people of all faiths.
“The festival of light and Hanukkah is a good way to remember that and celebrate that and bring the light from within and without to the nation and the world,” Wolf said.
The show of solidarity inspired the Kaufman family to bring their children to the ceremony.
“Regardless of what your faith is, we all support each other here,” Jake Kaufman said.
A theme of unity was present not only in the message shared by the Rabbi, but the many symbols of different faiths displayed outside in Downtown SLO.
On the same night that people gathered to light the menorah, others visited Santa’s house and admiring the Christmas tree on the plaza of the Catholic Mission.
For Wolf, it was symbol of tolerance and acceptance of one another.
“I love that dichotomy all around here, just a great collaboration and shared thought and shared light,” Wolf said.