On a brisk and windy early-winter evening downtown, community members gathered Tuesday to light the menorah in celebration of Hanukkah.
The 16th annual State College event was led by Rabbi Nosson Meretsky, co-director of Chabad of Penn State. The focal point of the ceremony was a 9-foot, golden menorah placed in front of the municipal building on South Allen Street.
As dusk approached, Meretsky asked folks to gather around the menorah to begin the ceremony. The crowd was greeted by Mayor Elizabeth Goreham.
“This is a special night in State College,” Goreham said. “And I am pleased with the turnout for the celebration of the holiday considering the university break.”
Meretsky started with a prayer and brief explanation of the significance of the Jewish holiday, also known as the Festival of Lights. He said Hanukkah is a celebration of miracles and victory, which are commemorated by lighting each candle.
“When we light the menorah in State College, we are joining thousands of Chabad houses around the world,” Meretsky said. “We gathered here today on the fourth day of Hanukkah to celebrate.”
In observance of the fourth night, five lights of the nine branches were lit. The first was the Shamash, or servant light, and the next four were representative of the days of the holiday.
As Meretsky climbed a wooden ladder with a torch in hand, he battled the wind as families gathered to watch each light come to life. When the final light was lit, the crowd broke into song, led by Meretsky.
In the glow of the menorah, the celebration moved inside where hot cocoa, latkes and sufganiyot were served. Children played and friends gathered with joyous smiles as the spirit of the holiday was on full display.
“This is a wonderful night,” Meretsky said. “To be with the community and everyone coming together makes this very special.”