First-ever menorah lighting at city hall
Dozens of Claremonters convened at city hall Wednesday evening to celebrate the lighting of the menorah and the Hanukkah holiday.
Rabbi Sholom Harlig of Chabad Inland Empire was on hand to lead the festivities, as were Mayor Corey Calaycay and Pomona Mayor Eliott Rothman. City Manager Tony Ramos, Mayor Pro Tem Sam Pedroza and Councilmember Larry Schroeder were also present. It was the first time the Hanukkah celebration was held at city hall.
The lighting of the menorah took place in front of the council chamber on the patio, which served as a perfect spot for revelers to mingle. According to Rabbi Harlig, the lighting of the menorah at dusk chases away the forces of darkness during the holiday.
“The little light in the darkness represents our good deeds,” Rabbi Harlig said. “And that is why we’re here.”
Traditional Jewish songs were played by members of various temples in the area, including Temple Beth Israel in Pomona. Children from the Chabad Hebrew School sang songs, including “I Have a Little Dreidel.” Latkes and donuts were also available to ring in the holiday spirit for anyone wishing to indulge.
“We’re really happy to do it over here,” Rabbi Harlig said, in reference to the location in front of city hall. He added that Chabad has recently opened another branch in Claremont that deals with students, which is helmed by Rabbi Yossi Matusof and his wife Rochel.
“We’ve been living in Claremont for two and a half years now,” Rabbi Matusof said. “It’s really a beautiful community here.”
Mr. Calaycay was given the honor of lighting the shamash, or first candle, on the menorah.
“It’s an honor that we were able to do this in Claremont,” Mr. Calaycay said. “For years, Rabbi Harlig has invited me over to Upland and we’ve celebrated in Upland. And last year, he asked me about having this in Claremont, so I’m glad we’re able to do this.”
Mr. Calaycay also highlighted the “strong interfaith community” in Claremont. “So it’s nice to be able to share these traditions with all our community members here in the city,” he said.
Human Services Director Anne Turner coordinated with Chabad of the Inland Empire to put on the event. According to Ms. Turner, city representatives met with the Chabad to plan the commemoration as far back as February.
During his speech, Mr. Calaycay touched upon recent events in the region that have cast darkness over the area and stressed the importance of coming together.
“In light of some of the unfortunate violence we’ve experienced in the world and in our local community here, it’s important that we come together during this holiday season to remember the tenets of what this season is all about,” Mr. Calaycay said. “Joy, happiness, peace, harmony, love and the religious traditions that go with this season.”