In a season of holidays, one got its first moment to shine Tuesday night in downtown State College.
Dozens gathered in the courtyard in front of the municipal building as Rabbi Nosson Meretsky of Chabad of Penn State lit the first candles in the huge menorah, marking the start of the eight-night festival of Hanukkah.
The holiday commemorates a miracle of the Jewish faith, when a single day’s worth of oil lasted eight days as the Holy Temple was reclaimed and rededicated.
Meretsky said 2014 marks the 40th year that public menorahs have been lit in the United States. The practice started in Philadelphia.
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“It’s a very tangible way of bringing light to the darkness,” Meretsky said. Another candle is lit each day, increasing the light flame by flame.
It is an important lesson, especially in the face of darkness like the hostage situation in Australia or the tragic school attack in Pakistan, he said.
After the lighting and a singing of blessings, Chabad welcomed the crowd to enjoy the fun parts of the celebration.
There were hot latkes, the potato pancakes that are a traditional Hanukkah nosh. Holger Thorsen, 14 months, got his chance to try them for the first time.
At another table kids were making their own dreidels out of modeling clay and decorating them with sequins, just the kind of thing Camilla Thorsen, 5, was looking forward to. Well, that and the eight nights of presents.
“It really brings us together as a community,” said their mom, Rebecca Thorsen.
The event gave another culture its moment in the spotlight during the nonstop march toward Christmas.
“We love the diversity and richness of our community,” said Mayor Elizabeth Goreham.