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Public invited to Chanukah celebration in Turlock
Rabbi Shalom Bochner of the Congregation Beth Shalom in Modesto lights the Menorah at Stanislaus State in December 2015, during the first ever community-wide Chanukah celebration in Turlock. - photo by Journal file photo

Congregation Beth Shalom will celebrate the fifth night of Chanukah with a public lighting ceremony of the Chanukah Menorah in downtown Turlock, which will mark the second year the City has been the site of a public celebration of the Jewish holiday.

The lighting of a 5-foot tall Menorah will be from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, at Central Park located at the corner of Main Street and South Golden State Boulevard in Downtown Turlock. The event is free, for all-ages, rain or shine, and will feature holiday songs and doling out holiday treats.

Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd century. The Maccabees led a Jewish revolt against the Seleucid empire, which had claimed their territory, including the Holy Temple. The Jewish fighters were able to reclaim the temple, but didn’t have enough oil left to consecrate the holy site. The small jar of oil they found was only enough to light the Temple’s Menorah for one night, but lasted eight nights, allowing for new consecrated oil to be prepared.

The holiday follows the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar and this year starts at sundown Saturday and the last night will be Dec. 31.  This particular timing of the winter holiday won’t re-occur for more than 20 years. Each year the holiday over-laps with the new moon, and thereby always includes the darkest nights of the year.  A main message of the holiday, according to Rabbi Shalom Bochner, who serves as the rabbi for the congregation, “is the power of light over darkness, the triumph of hope over despair. While Chanukah is a minor Jewish festival, it has great appeal and meaning for many people.”

Turlock celebrated the first public Chanukah event at CSU Stanislaus last year, with more than a dozen people attending the holiday celebration on the college campus.

This year the congregation will also offer public Menorah lighting events in Manteca at 4:30 p.m. Monday; in McHenry Village shopping area in Modesto at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday; in downtown Oakdale at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 29; and in downtown Modesto at 10th Street Plaza at 4 p.m. Dec. 30. Everyone is invited to participate.

Congregation Beth Shalom is the only Jewish congregation in Stanislaus County and the greater Modesto area. As the Center for Jewish Life, they provide a wide variety of cultural, educational, holiday, and social programs for the diverse Jewish population and the local community.