Big menorah at Ventura Pier lit

By Anne Kallas

Calling it a celebration of religious freedom, Rabbi Dov Muchnik of Chabad of Oxnard presided over the annual lighting of the menorah at the annual Hanukkah Festival, which was held Sunday on the Ventura Pier.

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Mendy Rav Noy dances inside the circle made by Hanukkah Festival attendees after the lighting of the menorah at Ventura Pier on Sunday.

Ventura City Councilman NealAndrews echoed that sentiment when he spoke briefly before the large metal menorah, fitted with converted tiki torches as candles, was lit.


“This is about the search for religious freedom. I understand how important it is to you. It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing you are doing here today,” Andrews said to a small crowd of people who gathered to watch the lighting of the menorah.

Muchnik said the menorah lighting is always held in a public place. “We celebrate the freedoms of this blessed country by having the (menorah lighting) in a venue outdoors, free and open to the public,” he said, adding that this celebration is especially family oriented and open to all faiths.

Ventura County Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Bennett also spoke about how much he has been enjoying Hanukkah celebrations this year.

“Whenever communities of people get together, I like to join in and honor their celebration,” Bennett said.

The Hanukkah Festival also had an emphasis on children’s activities, including decorating cookies shaped like dreidels and making the spinning tops out of marshmallows, pretzels, marshmallow creme and chocolate chips. Children were asked to write the four letters that decorate the dreidel on their edible creations.

Melanie Lee of Oxnard explained that she and her son Gavin Lee, 11, were at the festival because she recently started going to an Oxnard synagogue and she’s been impressed by the warmth of the community.

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“My family walked away from religion a little bit. I did a bit of soul-searching,” she said, adding that celebrating holidays with the Chabad community reminded her of holidays from her youth. “This is the feeling of family I got with my grandparents. I feel a real closeness with God,” Lee said. 

Los Angeles-based acrobat Simon Chavan enthralled the crowd with his spinning baton that was lit with flames at both ends as he performed flips and tossed the baton in the air to skillfully catch it.

Ken Winter of Ventura, who said he served on the USS Midway during World War II, said he came to the festival because of a friend. “I came just to enjoy the celebration,” Winter said. “I really enjoy it, especially all of the Jewish food.”

As a stiff wind blew, Rabbi Yakov Latowicz of Chabad of Ventura was raised up in a cherry picker on the back of a small truck to the towering menorah.

Despite a stiff breeze that made lighting the menorah difficult, he was still able to light the three torches signifying the three nights of the eight nights of Hanukkah, which started Friday, along with the ninth torch, which is called the shamas, or the torch that is used to light the other candles. As music played, the children and some of their parents danced .