Thirty years ago, when Lesli Sachs-Williams moved to the coast, there wasn’t an organized community for Jewish Coastsiders. Sachs-Williams would stand in the aisle where Jewish holiday food and Kosher food items were displayed, waiting for someone to buy matzos. She scoured the phone book for Jewish surnames and, through a variety of means, reached out to as many Jewish locals as she could find, and in 1991 helped organize the first Coastside Hanukkah celebration. Eighty families attended the inaugural festivities.

“She was really a moving force in the formation of the Coastside Jewish Community,” said Rabbi Moshe Heyn. “We all remember her fondly.”

Sachs-Williams died in 2013 but her legacy continues, as on Dec. 4 the Coastside Jewish Community will honor its 30th Hanukkah together.

“Thirty years is significant,” said Heyn. “There have been Jews on the coast for much longer than that, but it’s important to recognize the history of the organization.”

Hanukkah or the Jewish Festival of Lights is an eight-day commemoration of the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem where Maccabees rose up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. The High Holy Day usually occurs in December, though sometimes starts in November, and is celebrated with lighting of the menorah, special foods, games and gifts.

This year the first candle will be lit at sundown on Sunday. This is the first time Hanukkah will begin in November since 2013. This Hanukkah is also special for Coastsiders as they are able to congregate and observe their faith together after being unable to do so due to COVID-19.

“Hanukkah symbolizes how we respond in times of darkness and that usually is to shed more light,” said Heyn. “By candles, by acts of kindness. Hanukkah always occurs around the solstice, so after Hanukkah the days start getting lighter again. In a similar way, we’re coming out of a period of darkness and isolation. We’re looking toward a brighter future day by day.”

At 7 p.m. on Dec. 3, the evening of the sixth day of Hanukkah, the Coastside Jewish Community will participate in Half Moon Bay’s annual Nights of Lights parade. The group plans to drive a “menorah mobile,” a vehicle with a menorah affixed to the roof, down Main Street.

From 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 4 the Coastside Jewish Community will hold its annual Hanukkah party at the Holy Family Episcopal Church, 1590 S. Cabrillo Highway. At the family- friendly event there will be songs, stories, dreidel games, chocolate gelt, latkes, jelly donuts and a menorah lighting at 5:30 p.m. There will also be a potluck dinner and an outdoor sing-along.

“We serve Jewish families and what you might call Jew-ish families,” said Heyn. “There are many intermarried families and people who come from some Jewish ancestry or none at all but identify with the Jewish community. We’re here for all of them, from Pacifica all the way down to Pescadero.”

The first hour of the event will be live-streamed via Zoom for those who want to join virtually for the blessings. For those attending in person, face masks are required while indoors except while eating and drinking, and all those eligible are required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Everyone who wishes to attend must register for the Zoom link or in-person attendance and potluck contribution. For more information or to register, visit coastsidejewishcommunity.org

Emma Spaeth is a staff writer for the Half Moon Bay Review covering community, arts and sports. Emma grew up in Half Moon Bay before earning a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Oregon.

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