In the Jewish faith, Hanukkah is a time when one source of light — a single candle or positive influence — can be a beacon in a time of darkness. 

Recent Coastside resident Rabbi Moshe Tom Heyn knows this well. In addition to becoming the Coastside Jewish Community’s new spiritual leader, he also serves as a hospice chaplain for VITAS Healthcare in San Mateo. It’s a grave responsibility, working with dying patients and grieving family members, often in their homes. He helps them grapple with loss and difficult situations. 

“Coping with death and bereavement is something that we’re generally not very good at,” Heyn said. “Our culture tends to focus on youth and vitality. But death is an unavoidable reality we all must face at some point.”

Though the work may seem grim to some, Heyn is not a morbid person. He wants to make a difference. Born in Baltimore, he received musical training at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University and earned a bachelor's from the University of Wisconsin. He then got his master's degree and rabbinic ordination 20 years ago from the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion. He worked in a congregation for the past six years and as an interfaith hospice chaplain for VITAS in Miami.

The CJC’s upcoming Hanukkah celebration is a great opportunity to get to know the rabbi. All faiths and ages are welcome from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Community United Methodist Church. The family and children’s activities start at 5 p.m., followed by menorah lighting, dreidel game, singing, and light dinner with latkes. Heyn, 59, moved to Half Moon Bay four months ago, and he says he’s determined to invest and make a difference in the community.

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