Council member Clare Kelly, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Mayor Daniel Biss and Northwestern Chabad Rabbi Mendy Weg celebrate after switching on the large menorah. (Photo by Les Jacobson)

With the city’s 10-foot tall Hannukah lights arrayed behind him, Northwestern Chabad Rabbi Mendy Weg on Monday night, November 29, pointed out that the theme of faith and hope implicit in the ancient celebration of candles burning for eight days applies to modern times as well.

“The true message is that the miracle that one small flask of oil lasted for eight days – a supply chain story – symbolizes that however lost we feel, there’s always a little flask of oil to rekindle our flame,” he said.

The city’s annual Menorah lighting brought out a festive crowd of about 100 people, including Mayor Daniel Biss, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky and 1st Ward City Council member Clare Kelly, each of whom spoke briefly, as well as Police and Fire Department officials and a nine-foot tall man on stilts outfitted in a skin-tight costume swirling with different colored lights.

Mayor Biss and Rep. Schakowsky dance the hora (Photo by Les Jacobson)

Biss’s message was somber as well as celebratory. “This is a day of mourning in Evanston, a difficult day on a holiday of joy,” he said, referring to the shootings that occurred just a mile away on Sunday night that resulted in the death of one person and injuries to four others, all teenagers.

“It’s a day we talk about strength, courage and resilience,” said Schakowsky.

“Evanston is a caring community, a community of warmth,” Kelly added.

The Jewish holiday of Hannukah, also known as the “festival of lights,” celebrates the ancient miracle in which Jewish freedom fighters known as the Maccabees defeated their enemies and were able to rededicate the temple in Jerusalem. The word Hannukah means to dedicate.

According to the website, “In the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of mitzvah observance and belief in [God]. Against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, 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 (the seven-branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.”

Les Jacobson

Les is a longtime Evanstonian and RoundTable writer and editor. He won a Chicago Newspaper Guild best feature story award in 1975 for a story on elderly suicide and most recently four consecutive Northern...

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