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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Chabad of Spokane celebrates last night of Hanukkah

Rabbi Yisroel Hahn climbs a ladder to light a candy-filled menorah during a Hanukkah celebration on Dec. 29. (Emma Epperly / The Spokesman-Review)

A giant menorah towered over Rabbi Yisroel Hahn as he spoke Sunday to a crowd ready to celebrate the last hours of Hanukkah despite recent attacks on the Jewish community.

“Our response is acts of goodness and light,” Hahn said.

That light was both literal and figurative as Hahn lit the menorah.

More than 80 people gathered at the Southside Senior Center to celebrate the last night of Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah, which ends at nightfall Monday. The event was hosted by the Chabad of Spokane’s Rabbi Hahn and his wife, Sarah.

“The eighth day of Hanukkah has a very special meaning and today more than every number eight represents and has more meaning,” Hahn said. “Yesterday, there was a horrific attack against Jews in New York. What some of you may not know is that it’s following tens of attacks in the last two weeks alone. It’s as if it’s a free-for-all that Jews are allowed to get beaten and they get away with it.”

Five Jewish people were stabbed at a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, Saturday night. The stabbings are the latest in a slew of violence against Jewish people in the area, including the fatal shooting of four people at a Jersey City kosher grocery store earlier this month.

“In the battle between goodness and kindness and the dark forces and the forces of light, light always wins,” Hahn said.

After addressing the attacks, Hahn encouraged attendees to seek out ways to explore their Jewish traditions and to share proudly their heritage.

“Our response should be that we are never quiet,” Hahn said.

Sacha Allen was already on the same page as Hahn. She attended the lighting of a menorah in Riverfront Park on Monday after seeing the event posted on Facebook and wanted to become more involved in the Jewish community. At the lighting she was invited to attend Sunday’s event.

“We’ve always done holidays,” Allen said. “For me, part of it is given the climate in the world right now, it’s important that we show up and not silence ourselves.”

This year, Allen made it a point to bring a menorah into her office and to invite her co-workers to come celebrate Hanukkah with her.

“I think it’s important to put your hand out and say come and see what this is actually about and enjoy it,” Allen said.

Allen, who is hard of hearing, attended the celebration with her son, Pau Fredericks.

“It’s just kind of nice and usually we’re a family of semi-introverts, so it was nice to go out,” Fredericks said.

Fredericks even picked up a yarmulke, a traditional hat worn by Jewish men, with a “punky” design on top that his mom and grandmother thought would suit him.

Annette MacDougall, Allen’s mother, came into town from Portland to celebrate Hanukkah. As many doting grandmothers do, MacDougall brought an extra suitcase entirely full of presents, one for each night of Hanukkah.

The Chabad of Spokane Hanukkah celebration is full of good food and Hanukkah specialties, like donuts and latkes.

Sarah Hahn prepares everything in her kosher kitchen.

“I make the traditional foods for Hanukkah, the donuts and the potato cakes or latkes,” Hahn said.

Each year the Hahns find a creative way to make the menorah fun. Last year it was full of Legos, and other years it has been made of balloons and even ice. This year the giant menorah made out of PVC pipe was filled with candy.

Just outside the door to the gathering, Hal Ellis sat with Steven Liss as the informal welcoming committee.

“I came to help out, to meet people, to welcome them, and to make their evening as enjoyable as possible,” Ellis said.

“And for the latkes,” Liss added.

“It’s a traditional food,” Ellis said. “Everyone who prepares latkes has their own secret formula.”

Liss drove over from Idaho for the event, as he has for the last 15 years.

“This is the nearest religious experience,” Liss said.

After all that time, Liss has made friends at the celebration and brought some friends with him too. Asked how he feels when he leaves every year, Liss leaned back and simply said, “Full.”