Updated December 21, 2022 - 8:35 pm
Downtown Las Vegas hosted a menorah lighting Wednesday evening on the fourth night of Hanukkah to celebrate religious freedom and light overcoming darkness.
Residents and community leaders gathered around 5 p.m. for the ceremony inside the rotunda of the Clark County Government Center.
Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft said Hanukkah is a unique celebration in the Jewish faith because it is celebrated externally rather than just within a family or congregation.
“We celebrate in communities and with the general public,” Naft said. “I think for me that makes it particularly special whether you’re Jewish or not, or observing a faith or not, you can come together and celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah.”
Rabbi Shea Harlig of Chabad of Southern Nevada explained the history of Hanukkah and its significance to those in attendance.
Hanukkah is the eight-day festival that commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a group of Jewish warriors defeated occupying Greek-Assyrian armies about 2,200 years ago.
Oil used to light the menorah in the temple that was expected to last just one day lasted eight days.
This year Hanukkah began at sundown on Sunday and will continue through sundown Monday.
Harlig said the defeat of the Greek armies allowed for the freedom of other nations that had been conquered.
“Since this miracle wasn’t only beneficial to the Jewish people, that it benefited all the nations being oppressed, that’s why we have it. We spread the miracle to the outside,” Harlig said. “For everyone to know this was really a holiday of freedom of religion.”
Naft’s father, Richard Naft, was invited forward to light the candles while saying a blessing. A large menorah with electric lights also lit up.
After the candles were lit, the Dancing Driedels — a group of five men — spun and danced to music. They handed out dreidels and glow sticks. People clapped with the music, and Commissioner Naft even joined in the dancing.
The five men came from Antwerp, Belgium; Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Australia; and Los Angeles to perform and had to quickly leave the government center to make a 6 p.m. appearance at another ceremony.
Harlig said candles are lit one by one each night as a lesson about the importance of growth. He said the light also represents and encourages people to do good deeds in what can be a dark world.
“That’s why we do it at night when it’s dark to show despite the fact there might be darkness out there we’ve got to bring the message of light,” Harlig said.
Jelly doughnuts and refreshments were on hand for guests to enjoy. The jelly is symbolic of the oil that burned for eight days.
Wednesday’s ceremony was one of several held to celebrate Hanukkah in Las Vegas. On Sunday, a 20-foot menorah was lit on Fremont Street to mark the first night of Hanukkah.
“One thing that makes eight days so special is there’s lots of room for celebration,” Naft said.
Contact David Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.