The Nevada Independent

Your state. Your news. Your voice.

The Nevada Independent

PHOTOS: Menorah lightings across Nevada aim to spread messages of Hanukkah

Tim Lenard
Tim Lenard
Daniel J. Clark
Daniel J. Clark
Michelle Rindels
Michelle Rindels
Community
SHARE

Wearing floppy blue caps and waving glow sticks, a group of men dressed as dreidels high-kicked and spun like tops to joyful music bouncing off the walls of the Clark County Government Center rotunda.

The festive menorah lighting ceremony last week was among several public events held at prominent sites across the state in recent days to celebrate Hanukkah and spread what organizers say are its transcendent messages. 

The eight-day Jewish holiday, marking the victory of Jewish rebels called Maccabees over invading Syrian-Greek forces in the 2nd century B.C. and securing the right to worship according to their beliefs, concludes Monday evening.

“The Greek Assyrians, when they conquered whatever nation they conquered, they forced them to start following the Greek cultures,” explained Rabbi Shea Harlig, founder of the Jewish outreach organization Chabad of Southern Nevada. “The Maccabees were victorious. That allowed all the other nations to rise up, that they could have freedom of religion. So us living in the United States really appreciate the fact of religious freedom, and that's what it's all about.”

The centerpiece of the holiday is the menorah, a candelabra commemorating the miracle of multiplying oil when the Jewish temple was reclaimed from invading forces and rededicated. As the story goes, the Maccabees working to restore the temple found enough oil to burn for just one day, but the light miraculously kept burning for eight.

Jewish families light an additional candle of the menorah on each of the days of Hanukkah.

“Each night we increase in light,” said Sarah Cunin, director of the Aleph Academy Jewish preschool in Reno. “The message is that everyone should increase in doing good for others and in spreading light to the world.”

To symbolize the oil so central in the miracle, the holiday features fried foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) topped with applesauce or sour cream, and jelly donuts, called “sufganiyot” in Hebrew. Other traditions include playing with a dreidel — a spinning top featuring Hebrew letters that’s used in a children’s game around Hanukkah.

Since the 1970s, leaders of the Chabad movement have called for menorahs to be lit in public places all over the world. The organization, which seeks to educate Jewish people and promote Jewish traditions, has helped coordinate the ceremonies across Nevada in recent decades.

Menorah lightings this year at places including the government center in Clark County, the Fremont Street Experience, Reno City Plaza, the Las Vegas Strip and at the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City are a chance to show pride over Jewish culture and sacred traditions, Harlig said.

“There is antisemitism out there ... that's rearing its ugly head. So we don't want to go into hiding and run into the home and cover ourselves up,” he said. “We are Jewish. We're proud, we're here, we’re just as American as everyone else, and we're going to celebrate our sacred culture and heritage.”

The festival’s message — of a little oil going a long way, and a small group of rebels triumphant over a powerful foe — resonate all the more as Nevada faces the challenges of the pandemic, according to Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft.

“I think perseverance is a lesson that we can all learn from this holiday and from the history of Hanukkah,” Naft said. “We've all, as a community … demonstrated extraordinary perseverance over these last two years, and it's not over yet.”

A menorah as seen at a Hanukkah Menorah Lighting ceremony at the Clark County Government Building in Las Vegas on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)
The reflection of a menorah is seen in a window before a Hanukkah Menorah Lighting ceremony at the Clark County Government Building in Las Vegas on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)
Performers prepare before a Hanukkah Menorah Lighting ceremony at the Clark County Government Building in Las Vegas on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)
Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft, left, and Rabbi Shea Harlig of Chabad of Southern Nevada light a menorah at a Hanukkah Menorah Lighting ceremony at the Clark County Government Building in Las Vegas on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)
Rabbi Shea Harlig of Chabad of Southern Nevada lights a menorah at a Hanukkah Menorah Lighting ceremony at the Clark County Government Building in Las Vegas on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)
Performers dance at a Hanukkah Menorah Lighting ceremony at the Clark County Government Building in Las Vegas on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)
Performers dance at a Hanukkah Menorah Lighting ceremony at the Clark County Government Building in Las Vegas on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)
Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft applauds performers at a Hanukkah Menorah Lighting ceremony at the Clark County Government Building in Las Vegas on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)
A menorah as seen at a Hanukkah Menorah Lighting ceremony at the Clark County Government Building in Las Vegas on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)
SHARE
Comment Policy (updated 4/20/2021): Please keep your comments civil. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, use an excess of profanity, make verifiably false statements or are otherwise nasty. Comments that contain links must be approved by admin.
7455 Arroyo Crossing Pkwy Suite 220 Las Vegas, NV 89113
© 2021 THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT
Privacy PolicyRSSContactJobsSupport our Work
The Nevada Independent is a project of: Nevada News Bureau, Inc. | Federal Tax ID 27-3192716