After a modified Hanukkah celebration last year, Hillsboro's traditional menorah lighting event will return to its pre-pandemic form.
On Sunday, Nov. 28, the first night of Hanukkah this year, the Chabad Jewish Center of Hillsboro will host the holiday celebration, called "Light-up Hillsboro," at Orenco Station.
Rabbi Menachem Rivkin will light a 9-foot-tall menorah along with Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway at 4:30 p.m. The event will also feature live music and a fire juggler, and people can enjoy individually wrapped doughnuts, potato latkes and other treats.
Hillsboro's Chabad is the only synagogue in Washington County. Founded in 2007 by Rabbi Rivkin and his wife, Chaya Rivkin, who organized this year's event, the synagogue has been hosting a public menorah lighting for the past seven years.
Last year, attendance at the menorah lighting was capped at 50 people due to pandemic restrictions at the time. Chabad live-streamed the event on Facebook and then held other activities on the subsequent nights of Hanukkah, such as a drive-thru celebration at the synagogue.
The eight-day holiday celebrates the Jewish rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem nearly 2,200 years ago. Following the defeat of the Greeks who had occupied and imposed their religious beliefs in the area, Jews sought to cleanse the Temple by relighting the menorah with oil. Although they only had enough oil for one day, the story goes, the menorah stayed lit for eight days and nights. The Jewish community considers the event a miracle.
Jewish people celebrate the holiday by saying a prayer and lighting a candle on the menorah each night of Hanukkah.
Contrary to what many people outside of the Jewish faith think, Hanukkah is not among the most significant holidays in the religion — the Jewish "high holy days" are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The holiday, also known as the "Festival of Lights," presents an opportunity for the entire community to remember to spread light, Rivkin says.
While he's happy to hold a normal menorah lighting again this year, with the pandemic ongoing, Rivkin said he doesn't want people to be satisfied going back to what was normal before the pandemic.
Like any other challenge in life, people need to remember to take advantage of the struggles the pandemic has presented, Rivkin says.
"I don't want to go backwards, I want to come out stronger," Rivkin says. "I want people to be more generous, more understanding, more sensitive to each other, more thankful. To be ready to achieve more light.
"That's the message of Hanukkah: going forward, not backward. That's why every day we light another light."
Rivkin says he has been delighted to see countless examples of people throughout the pandemic rising to the challenge and seeking to spread light by helping others.
For his part, he saw his passage of light from one person to another whenever he would visit people who couldn't leave their house due to health concerns, he said.
"I give them something and I see them behind a window and I light their day," Rivkin said. "I am happier, he's happier, we're both happier."
He says lighting a new candle on the menorah each night of Hanukkah is purposeful because it signifies how light doesn't diminish when it's passed from one entity to another, it only grows.
Rivkin says he hopes Hanukkah will serve as a reminder for people to maintain their efforts to help others and spread light long after the pandemic is in the past.
"What we do here in Hillsboro, and around the world, is about lighting the entire world," he said.
People can RSVP here.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.