Vacaville's 'Menorah on Main' aims to shed light on religious freedom

By Melissa Murphy/ MMurphy@TheReporter.com


A quiet afternoon in Vacaville's Town Square on Christmas Day was soon filled with laughter, lights, music and a celebration.

Hosted by the Chabad of Solano County, Sunday was the third annual Menorah on Main, which takes part during the 2,176th celebration of Hanukkah for Jews.

"This is not a dream, this is for real," said Rabbi Chaim Zaklos to the crowd the quickly grew to 100 people of all ages. "The menorah stands proud on Main Street in public."

Originally standing next to Vacaville's Christmas Tree at Three Flags Monument on Main Street, the 10-foot tall menorah was moved down the street for the ceremony at Town Square.

Vacaville Mayor Steve Hardy climbed a swaying scaffolding up to the top of the menorah to light the first candle. All the candles on the menorah were lit except for two. One will be lit tonight, and the eighth candle will be lit on Tuesday, the last day of Hanukkah.

Zaklos said the menorah is a symbol that carried the message of freedom of religion and that light overcomes darkness.

More than 21 centuries ago, a small band of faithful Jews known as the Maccabees defeated the Syrian-Greeks, who sought to forcefully make the people of Israel adopt Greek ideas and customs.

The Jews drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of God. When they sought to light the temple's menorah, they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

"We want to share the message of light for those in darkness," he said. "We know that even a little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.

"I pray that this coming year is one of happiness and light, here and abroad."

Hardy said it was an honor to be part of such a special event and that he didn't mind slipping away from his family's Christmas celebration to participate in the Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony.

"It's great that you took the time to be here," he said, adding that having a city full of different faith-based groups is a great thing. "It makes us a better city."

The crowd enjoyed festive music, traditional Jewish foods and entertainment by Jeremy Shafer, also known as Jeremy the Juggler.

He mesmerized the crowd with not only his juggling ability, but he also rode a unicycle and taught the group how to fold origami in the shape of the Star of David.

"I think this is just great," Zaklos said of the crowd that gathered in Town Square. "The doors are shut and nothing is open. This event alone attracted these people."

Visiting family in the area, Walnut Creek resident Lea Pederson said she was touched by the ceremony. She enjoyed the ceremony with her father, Jacob Silvertest, who lives in Israel.

"It just touched my heart," she said. "I don't get to see this and feel close to home very often."

Vallejo resident Danny Jacob said, as an Israeli, he's glad an event like Menorah on Main was held in public.

"People should know about other religions," he said. "This ceremony is all about religious freedom. It's a festival of light."