Local Jews organize parade of lights to celebrate start of Chanukah this Sunday

Elected officials will participate in second annual drive-in menorah lighting ceremony


Not even a pandemic can keep this area’s Jews from figuring out a safe way to gather together to celebrate Chanukah, the festival of lights, which starts this Sunday.

Instead of assembling indoors, Chabad Jewish Center of Olympia has organized a car parade, complete with LED decorations for each car, that will travel from their center in Tumwater to the Swantown Marina parking lot, arriving just in time to light a giant Chanukah candelabra called a menorah.

This is the second year Chabad Jewish Center of Olympia has organized this family-friendly and COVID-safe Hanukkah parade and outdoor event, in recognition of “the importance of community as people here continue to face the hardships of the pandemic” according to Rabbi Yosef Schtroks, who co-directs the Chabad Center with his wife, Rivka.

Lt. Gov. Denny Heck will be honored with kindling the leading candle on the Menorah using a giant torch. Other elected officials expected at the event are State Senator Sam Hunt, State Representative Jessica Bateman, Olympia Mayor Pro Tem Clark Gilman, Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet, Tumwater Mayor-elect Debbie Sullivan and Olympia City Councilmember-elect Dontae Payne.

The drive-in menorah-lighting event will feature lively Chanukah music and prepackaged donuts, a traditional holiday treat. The Dreidel Man, the holiday’s unofficial mascot, will travel from car to car distributing traditional chocolate coins. A giant screen will display the festivities to all, and participants will enjoy a Chanukah game show as well. The location allows for plenty of room for participants to safely enjoy the festivities, either from their cars or standing socially distanced nearer to the menorah and stage.

The parade is set to depart at 3:45 p.m., with ceremonies to start at 4:30 p.m. If you’re interested in participating, register at jewisholympia.com/chanukah21 and get further details.

About Chanukah

Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, begins this year on the evening of Sunday, November 28 and concludes the evening of Monday, December 6.

It recalls the victory of a militarily weak Jewish people nearly 2,200 years ago who defeated the Syrian-Greeks who had overrun ancient Israel and sought to impose restrictions on the Jews’ religious freedom. They also desecrated and defiled the Temple and the oils prepared for the lighting of the menorah, which was part of the daily religious service.

Upon recapturing the Temple only one jar of undefiled oil was found, enough to burn only one day, but it lasted miraculously for eight. In commemoration, Jews celebrate Chanukah for eight days by lighting an eight-branched candelabra known as a menorah and playing a game of luck using a spinning top called a dreidel with family and friends. Today, the holiday is presented to people of all faiths as “a message of the triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter, of light over darkness,” according to Rabbi Yosef Schtroks, co-leader of Chabad of Olympia.


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