The Coastside Jewish Community’s Hanukkah celebration will look different this year, but the holiday’s focus on religious and cultural inclusivity is as important as ever, Rabbi Moshe Tom Heyn said.
This year, in lieu of an in-person gathering to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah, the Coastside Jewish Community will be gathering via Zoom to hear stories, join in song and to watch live as Heyn lights a giant menorah in Mac Dutra Plaza. The Dec. 10 celebration begins at 5 p.m. and is free to attend on the Coastside Jewish Community website at www.coastsidejewishcommunity.org/chanukah/.
The second night of Hanukkah falls on Dec. 11. As part of the annual Nights of Lights event, members of the community will light the menorah in the plaza. The public is invited to stop by any time during the eight-night celebration.
Media contact Cathy Hauer said this year is the first that there will be a public display of a menorah in Half Moon Bay. To Heyn, the public display, as well as the opportunity for the community to gather over Zoom, embodies the spirit of Hanukkah, especially during a pandemic.
“There is a custom in Judaism that says we should light our menorah and place it in a window so it's visible publicly,” Heyn said. “This is challenging in a world where anti-Semitism thrives. This is a time when we should proudly display our identity, our faith and our commitment to pluralism.”
Heyn said Hanukkah is ultimately a celebration of religious freedom. The Hanukkah story, while retelling a miracle, is about survival and resistance against religious persecution and forced assimilation. The candles that Jews light each December represent their lasting fight against bigotry and oppression, a message that deserves celebration this and every year.
“Our freedoms and civil and human rights can be snuffed out by anyone who intends to do that,” Heyn said. “It's really for us to rekindle them frequently and to protect them.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Heyn said families can celebrate at home with loved ones, or gather virtually, peeking through virtual “windows” to join their neighbors’ and loved ones’ celebrations.
While not all members of the Coastside Jewish Community share the same religious, spiritual or cultural background, Heyn said, each is joined by shared values of social justice, equality and environmentalism — and their commitment to connection and growth in community.
“Today is a celebration of diversity, pluralism and inclusion,” Heyn said.