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Menorah lighting event returns to downtown Turlock
Congregation Beth Shalom will host a candle lighting event at 5:15 p.m. Dec. 21 in downtown Turlock’s Central Park, corner of E. Main Street and S. Golden State Boulevard (Journal file photo).

Congregation Beth Shalom, The Center for Jewish Life in Greater Stanislaus County and the Central Valley based in Modesto, will once again offer public Menorah lighting events all over the region for five of the eight nights of the Chanukah holiday this year. 

Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a minor Jewish holiday celebrating the victory of the Maccabees in their struggle for religious freedom in 164 BCE. This is the seventh year that the congregation has offered these public, outdoor lighting celebrations open to the entire community. The winter holiday is timed based on the lunar calendar and this year intersects with Christmas, starting on Dec. 22 and concluding on Dec. 30. 

“Chanukah is always during the darkest night of the year. We respond to the darkness by literally adding more light. The message of the holiday is clear: light is more powerful than darkness and hope is more powerful than despair,” said Rabbi Shalom Bochner.

The first night of Chanukah event will be held at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto. The second night of Chanukah event will be held at 5 p.m. Monday in Downtown Turlock. The sixth night event will be held at 4:15 p.m. on Dec. 27 at the McHenry Village shopping center. After the public lighting event on Dec. 27, there will be a Chanukah party with dreidel games and doughnuts at the congregation itself, followed by Shabbat Chanukah Services and at 7:15 p.m. a Latke dinner with macaroni and cheese and other holiday dishes. The Latke dinner is $12 for adults, $6 for children 12 and under and $30 for a family of four or more.  To reserve tickets to the dinner call 209-571-6060 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday by Dec. 26. After the deadline, or at the door, the cost will be $15 per person if there is available space. Latkes are a traditional fried potato pancake that recalls a miraculous jar of olive oil that was enough to burn for one night in the Holy Temple’s Menorah candelabrum, but burned for seven extra nights.

The seventh night will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 28 at the Oakdale Museum and History Center, 212 W. F St., followed by a no host Chanukah party at the Last Call Brewery at 159 North 1st Ave. in Oakdale.  The eighth and final night will be held at 5 p.m. Dec. 29 in downtown Merced at the Bob Hart Square and co-sponsored by Congregation Etz Chaim in Merced.  All of the events, other than the Latke Dinner, are free, for all-ages, rain or shine, and will feature the lighting of a 5-foot tall Menorah, holiday songs and distributing holiday treats.

For more than 10 years, the congregation has also hosted First Responders Dinners on Dec. 24 and 25 for police officers, fire fighters, emergency responders and those who are home-bound. These will again be offered this year as part of the congregation’s Chanukah events. The First Responders Dinners are part of the congregation’s commitment to Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and making the world a better place for everybody.