Rabbi Dov Muchnik, with Chabad of Oxnard, dances with his daughter Devorah Leah Muchnik to celebrate a mitzvah that involved kindling the menorah on the first day of Hanukkah at Constitution Park in Camarillo on Tuesday night. JOSEPH A. GARCIA/THE STAR

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CAMARILLO, Calif. - Perched atop a cherry picker, Rabbi Aryeh Lang, executive director of Chabad of Camarillo, lit the first candle of what he said was the tallest menorah in Ventura County, in a joyous celebration of the first evening of Hanukkah — the festival of lights — at Camarillo’s Constitution Park on Tuesday night.

With the steadying hand of Camarillo’ chief of police, Sheriff’s Comdr. Guy Stewart, who was also in the cherry picker, Lang sang the traditional blessing that begins the annual celebration. Hanukkah runs this year Dec. 16-24.

“The king tried to eradicate all Jewish study and culture,” Lang said before the 19-foot menorah was lit. “A small group of people called the Maccabees refused and fought back. When they reclaimed the temple, they found one flask of oil with the seal of the high priest, which meant it hadn’t been fouled. And by a miracle, that oil lasted eight days.”

Helping to celebrate the seventh annual menorah lighting ceremony was newly selected Camarillo Mayor Bill Little, who said all celebrations at the end of the year — from Hanukkah to Christmas — have a common theme.

“It’s part of the whole holiday season. This is a time to think about what happened in the past year and what we will do better in the new one,” Little said.

Little was joined by Ventura County Supervisor Kathy Long, who helped hand out chocolate gelt candy to the many children who were at the celebration.

As part of the annual celebration, girls from the Lamplighters Jewish Academy in Camarillo introduced Project Flame, a program of good deeds — or mitzvahs — that each person at the menorah lighting was invited to adopt.

Racheli Muchnik, principal of the academy, explained that Project Flame is a way to “focus on spreading the light of God.” People are asked to sign their names to the lighted signs signifying each pledge — light, pray, home, give, nourish, love and inspire — and wear yellow badges with those pledges, she said.

“Menus” were handed out describing in detail how to accomplish each pledge. Muchnik said she plans to take Project Flame around Ventura County.

“By the end of Hanukkah, we want each sign to be packed with signatures,” she said.

Her brother-in-law Rabbi Yosef Muchnik organized the menorah lighting and led the music, which included a joyous dance by all the men in attendance, including Stewart, Little and Camarillo Councilman Mike Morgan.

Yosef Muchnik explained that the menorah lighting event is designed to offer all of the best elements of the eight-day Hanukkah festival. Foods fried in oil — specifically doughnuts and latkes — were served along with hot chocolate while handmade goods were sold.

“It’s a wonderful time of year. People are in a joyous spirit and there is the message that light triumphs over darkness,” Yosef Muchnik said.

After the menorah lighting, the winners of the most creative menorah were announced. Chanie Davidson, 11, of Thousand Oaks, won the grand prize with her menorah made to resemble the “Western Wall” also known as the “Wailing Wall.”

Chanie said she would probably donate the mountain bicycle she won “to someone who needs it.”

Joey Lewis, of Camarillo, won the second place prize of a longboard skateboard for his menorah made of a motorized vehicle he made as part of a robotics class.


Sheriff’s Cmdr. Guy Stewart waits with Rabbi Aryeh Lang, from Chabad of Camarillo, after lighting the shamash on a menorah to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah at Constitution Park in Camarillo on Tuesday night. JOSEPH A. GARCIA/THE STAR




Sofia Doyle, of Oxnard, a teacher at Lamplighters Jewish Academy, looks at the mitzvah, or good deed ideas, that students from the academy were asking the community to commit to doing one of them during a Hanukkah celebration at Constitution Park in Camarillo on Tuesday night. JOSEPH A. GARCIA/THE STAR

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