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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Crowd celebrates Hanukkah with menorah-lighting ceremony in Riverfront Park

Before lighting a large menorah on the final evening of Hanukkah, Rabbi Yisroel Hahn, of Spokane, reflected Sunday on the strong mid-November windstorm that left much of the city in darkness and cold.

“This great wind … took down our beautiful pine trees and turned them into tools of destruction and caused us to lose our power and our warmth, our heat,” Hahn told about 150 people huddled near the Rotary Fountain in Riverfront Park.

The Chabad of Spokane County that serves the Jewish community with religious, educational and social services was without power in the week after the storm.

If the crisis symbolized the pervasive darkness in today’s world, the eight-day festival of lights that is Hanukkah represents the power of good deeds, said Hahn, who leads the community center.

He asked, “What can we do when we see senseless evil around the world?

“The most powerful thing that you can do is to light up your candle,” Hahn continued. “Light up your candles by performing acts of goodness and kindness. That is the message of Hanukkah.”

Mayor David Condon was invited to light the shamash, the middle candle used to light the other eight candles of the menorah.

“I think it’s so appropriate as we celebrate the seasons, that we celebrate all our faiths,” Condon said.

He also thanked the crowd for those who spread “the light of your faith and your kindness” by helping others in the days after the Nov. 17 storm.

“I saw over and over again as you delivered soup and hot drinks to those that were serving our community,” the mayor said.

Before the lighting, children danced to traditional Jewish songs, sipped hot chocolate, and ate jelly donuts and potato cakes. Afterward, fire dancers lit up the night twirling and tossing flaming sticks and hoops.

“Hanukkah is a very happy occasion,” said Lukas van der Walde, of Spokane, a member of Chabad. “It’s a great family event. Everybody gets involved, lots of gifts for the kids.”

The holiday also carries a strong message about light in darkness, van der Walde said.

“In this world which is so fraught with difficulties and wars and general nasty things happening, it’s kind of an inspiring thing to hear of something that can really overcome all the evil and darkness in the world,” he said.

“I think it’s a universal idea, light in the darkness,” said Spokane resident Stacey Conner, who took her five children to Sunday’s lighting.

“I think that unites a lot of different faiths,” she said. “So it’s always neat when a community celebrates diversity and all the different ways of bringing that together.”

A second menorah lit at the park Sunday was made from pine trees that fell in the storm. The 12-foot lampstand is a symbol of turning darkness to light, Hahn said.

He advised those gathered there to fill their homes with light, warmth and love.

“When we see what surrounds us in the world, the senseless shooting that plagues America, perhaps one of the answers is to light our home with purpose and meaning. To light our own candle, and then we are able to light the rest of the world.”

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