If Chanukah starts at sundown on Wednesday evening, Nov. 27, why is Mayor Eric Garcetti, the first Jew to be elected to the city’s highest office in the history of Los Angeles, participating in a menorah-lighting ceremony around midday on Tuesday, Nov. 26?
Call it a consequence of “Thanksgivukah.”
“On Wednesday, City Hall is pretty much shut down,” Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin of Chabad of California told the Journal on Monday evening. City leaders, Cunin said, would be starting their Thanksgiving vacations at least one day early -- according to the City Hall website, some committee meetings on Monday and Tuesday have been canceled – so Tuesday was the best opportunity to bring them together to celebrate the Jewish holiday.
“We’re actually going to be lighting eight candles to make clear to people that this is a pre-Chanukah event,” Cunin added.
This year marks the 28th time Chabad will host a Menorah-lighting at city hall, and there have been other years when the event did not take place on Chanukah itself. In 2012, when the first night of Chanukah fell on a Saturday night, Dec. 8, the official City Hall lighting was held on the Friday before.
Cunin oversees all of Chabad’s operations on the West Coast, and he helped orchestrate the first public lighting of a giant menorah in modern times. That took place in either 1968 or 1969, Cunin said, at Chabad’s regional headquarters in Westwood. The menorah was constructed by a resident of the Chabad house, using pipes that were four inches in diameter and designed to channel rain from rooftops.
Chabad has since brought Menorahs into the most public spaces in cities all around the world, and Cunin said that the holiday embodied the spirit of the movement.
“This is the yontif ,” Cunin said, using the Yiddish word for holiday, and putting additional emphasis on “the.”
“This is the triumph of light over darkness, this is the triumph of good over evil, of purity over impurity, and that’s really the whole message of Chabad,” he continued. “We’re not afraid of darkness.”