Mayor Robert Garcia recognizes Long Beach Jewish community at City Hall’s menorah lighting


Kristen Naeem | Signal Tribune

Rabbi Fajland addresses the crowd inside City Hall during the lighting of the menorah on Monday, Dec. 23.

A new menorah was placed in the lobby of Long Beach’s new City Hall on Monday with two of its candles already lit in a ceremony hosted by Mayor Robert Garcia and Rabbi Binyomin Fajland, who has helped light the menorah at Long Beach’s City Hall in honor of Chanukah for the past few years.

Garcia began the event by thanking attendees for coming despite the rainy weather, and wishing a happy Chanukah to all those celebrating. He then spoke about the importance of the city’s religious diversity, as well as the significant contributions made by the local Jewish community, including organizations such as the Alpert Jewish Community Center (JCC) and the Jewish Federation of Long Beach & West Orange County.

“One thing that’s really important for us is recognizing the contributions [of the Jewish community]. I have always been very grateful to our Jewish community [for] how much they contribute back to the city,” Garcia said. “It’s through the work that’s happening in community organizations, in our schools, through JCC and so many other organizations and in business and nonprofits. We’re so grateful for our Jewish community.”

After Garcia spoke, Fajland began to tell the crowd about the origins of Chanuka and the menorah’s candles.

The eight candles of the menorah represent a miracle in the Jewish faith, in which it is believed God helped a small group of Jewish rebels, the Maccabees, in their fight against the Greek empire by allowing the candles of Jerusalem’s temple to last eight nights when there was only enough oil available for them to last one day.

“We were able to liberate from them,” Fajland told the crowd during his retelling of the story, “and give the message to the whole world that the flame of our faith shall never be extinguished.”

To commemorate this event and the preservation of the Jewish faith, an eight-day holiday, spelled Chanukah or Hanukkah, is observed annually, with an additional candle of the menorah lit on each day.

This year the holiday is being celebrated from Sunday, Dec. 22 to Monday, Dec. 30.

The new menorah at Long Beach’s City Hall was donated by local Jewish philanthropists, Allen and Deanna Alevy. It stands next to City Hall’s Christmas tree, and uses electronic candles, rather than real flames, that are lit by pressing a button on the body of the menorah.

Menorahs also have a ninth elevated candle, that is not considered the same as the other eight, called the shamash, which is used to light all the others. Fajland compared the role of the shamash to that of public servants.

“There are those that dedicate their lives to [making] the lives of other people better,” Fajland told the crowd […]. “That is the shamash. It doesn’t get much credit. That is the public servant. And many times he gets the criticism, never the compliments, but he keeps doing his job. To be able to light the life of others, to be able to light the hopes and dreams that other people have, that’s the job of the shamash.”

Public servants such as Long Beach City Attorney Charles Parkin and Long Beach City Auditor Laura Doud, among others, were in attendance.

Since Chanukah had already begun on Sunday, two electronic candles were lit for each day that had passed by Fajland and another rabbi. As of press time, the office of the mayor has not responded to questions concerning the identity of the second rabbi.

To watch a recording of the event visit the mayor’s Facebook page.