After sundown on Sunday, about 150 people gathered in the Old Mill District to see the lighting of a large menorah, a public celebration of Hanukkah that will be on display throughout the week.
“The point of (Hanukkah) is that we always have to add light, and it will get rid of darkness,” said Rabbi Yitzchok Feldman of Chabad Lubavitch of Central Oregon.
The Jewish holiday, which spans eight days and started Saturday, is a reminder for people to do good deeds and bring light to each other’s lives, said Feldman, a leader at Chabad. Hosted by the synagogue in Bend, the event also drew members of other Jewish communities in town.
The Sunday evening event marked the second year in a row that there has been a grand menorah — measuring nine feet tall and weighing 200 pounds — at the mall in Bend. Last year, Feldman said, the menorah was up for the night of the lighting only, but this year it will be near the footbridge across the Deschutes River throughout this week.
The crowd joined in song to bless the menorah before Lewis Sperber, 70, and his wife Maggie Sperber, 44, of Bend, took turns climbing a stepladder and lighting oil-fueled lamps. The Sperbers are sponsoring the menorah’s stand in Bend.
“It’s just something we wanted to do,” Lewis Sperber said.
While they missed the lighting ceremony, Peter Covell, 38, and his wife Alicia Covell, 33, of Bend, brought their 1-year-old daughter Aria Covell to see the menorah. The family showed up as Feldman was replacing the oil lamps used in the ceremony with light bulbs and plugging the giant, electric aluminum menorah into a nearby plug.
“I think it is wonderful that they are doing that and celebrating the different celebrations in Bend,” Alicia Covell said.
After the lighting, about a third of the crowd gathered in a large room near the Regal Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX, where event organizers were serving up freshly fried doughnuts, or sufganiyot, and potato pancakes, or latkes.
Hanukkah celebrates a miracle of lamp oil lasting for eight days and a small band of Jews defeating a Greek army more than 21 centuries ago. Oil is a key part of the rituals connected to the holiday.
“What do doughnuts and potato pancakes have in common?” asked Rabbi Jay Shupack of the Jewish Community of Central Oregon, also in Bend.
The answer: They are made using oil.
Steven Foster-Wexler, 49, of Bend, and his daughter Maya Foster-Wexler, 12, said they thought the event was a success.
Maya said she particularly liked the doughnuts, which people could fill with jelly and roll in powdered sugar before munching on them.
“It was fun,” she said.