Historic menorah lighting wows crowd

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A 9-foot menorah is lit during a ceremony on Monday night at Los Alamitos Race Course. Chabad of Los Alamitos hosted the event. Photo by Brady Rhoades

Chabad of Los Alamitos held its first ever drive-in menorah lighting on Monday night at Los Alamitos Race Course.

Dozens of Jewish families from Los Al, Cypress, Seal Beach and other pockets of Orange County and Los Angeles got comfy in their cars and watched on a large screen as a 9-foot menorah was lit.

They also enjoyed a Chanukah concert and party with music transmitted via FM radio. Traditional Jewish foods such as latkes and jelly doughnuts were served.

“It’s more complicated, but much safer,” said Rabbi Shmuel Marcus, of Chabad of Los Alamitos, an orthodox synagogue. “Allowing families to celebrate the festival from the safety of their own vehicle is by far the safest way to go.”

The official Chanukah holiday, also known as Festival of Lights, starts on Thursday, Dec. 10.

Though public menorah lightings are not unusual, this was the first drive-in style ceremony offered by Chabad of Los Alamitos, for an obvious reason. The production in the Race Course parking lot, at 4961 Katella Ave. in Cypress, was billed as a “COVID safe event.”

Rabbi Marcus led prayers, preached and sang.

Gatherers honked their horns to show approval and excitement.

Singer/songwriter Isaac Gordon performed. Menorah kits were handed out for those who didn’t bring their own. Those on hand took selfies with their candelabrums. Dreidels were spun.

“It’s a wonderful way for us to come together and support each other,” said Sandra Serota, who drove from Fountain Valley with her family. “Chanukah is a time of celebration.”

“Being able to celebrate with other people in a safe way is so important,” said Matt Paretsky, of Los Alamitos.

Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem around 200 B.C., after Jewish fighters triumphed over their oppressors. The story goes that they lit the menorah in the Holy Temple with a one-day supply of oil, and it burned for eight days.

Starting Dec. 10, the Jewish faithful will light one candle on their menorahs every night for eight nights, to signify and celebrate a miracle.

Driving or strolling around Seal Beach, Cypress, Rossmoor and other areas, you’ll likely see menorahs in windows.

In a historically tumultuous year, they are, to many, more poignant than ever.

“That’s what we’re celebrating,” Rabbi Marcus told the crowd. “That little jar of oil that gets us through, and cannot be broken.”

Historic menorah lighting wows crowd