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VC Star icon.jpgBy Anne Kallas

 Print date Dec 22, 2014


VENTURA, Calif. - The theme of bringing light to the darkness continued at the 12th Annual
Hanukkah Festival and concert at Ventura Harbor, where the sixth candle of “Ventura County’s
tallest menorah,” was lit on Sunday.
Hanukkah started Dec. 16 and runs through Wednesday this year.
“The reason we’re here is to rekindle Jewish pride,” said Rabbi Dov Muchnik, who organized the annual event with leaders from the Chabads of Oxnard, Ventura and Camarillo.

With Assistant Ventura County Sheriff Steve DeCesari carrying the Shamash — or servant — torch through the crowd of about 200 people gathered on the main lawn at Ventura Harbor Village, the Hanukkah celebration culminated with the lighting of the sixth candle of the 20-foot menorah.
“We call this our own torch of unity,” said Rabbi Aryeh Lang, director of Chabad of Camarillo.

As the torch was being carried through the crowd by DeCesari, Lang encouraged everyone to touch its handle.

“Think about what we can do together as one community. We need to love each other as we love ourselves. This is one of the biggest mitzvahs of the Torah,” Lang said.
The torch was appropriately being passed by a “public servant,” Lang said. He got to know DeCesari when they worked together on a drug coalition targeting teens.

The torch made its way to Rabbi Yosef Muchnik, brother of Rabbi Dov Muchnik, and to Rabbi Yukov Latowicz, who then rose on a rickety cherry-picker to light the menorah.
DeCesari explained that his wife is Jewish, and he enjoys participating in the ceremony.
“I’ve had a longtime relationship with Rabbi Lang. I’m enjoying the celebration with all of the Jewish people for Hanukkah, with the messages they are trying to spread,” DeCesari said, pointing to the illuminated panels for Project Flame, an effort to spread good deeds — or mitzvahs.

Since inaugurating the program in Camarillo on the first day of Hanukkah, Racheli Muchnik, wife of
Dov Muchnik, has asked people to pledge to perform a good deed based on themes of light, pray,
home, learn, give, nourish, love and inspire. She said the panels have been filled with signatures and dozens of badges have been handed out.

Racheli Muchnik said she would love to see Project Flame grow into a national or even international
movement, encouraging people to perform good deeds during the holidays.
Latowicz’s family — wife Sarah Latowicz, daughter Chaya Lubin, and grandchildren Levi Lubin, 2,
and Rochel Leah Latowicz, 3 — watched as the family patriarch lit the evening’s candle and cheered
him on.

As soon as the menorah was lit, the women started dancing to celebratory music and nearby the men
started their own exuberant circular dance.

“I’m so glad to have my feet back on the ground,” Yukov Latowicz said after lighting the candles, as
he hugged his grandchildren. “This is such a beautiful holiday for Jews and non-Jews.”
Lin Bickelmann, of Burbank, was standing on the lawn, clapping and swaying to the music. She
explained that she and her family were on a “mini-vacation visiting family, and we wanted to
celebrate locally.
“This is lovely,” she added. “We’ve never been here in Ventura and never had the chance to celebrate
by the ocean.”

Dov Muchnik said he was delighted by the turnout at the annual event.
“It’s nice seeing people of the Jewish faith enjoying themselves and celebrating,” he said.

Sunday’s event not only included music, but also offered children’s activities and food, such as
doughnuts and latkes.
“There are also people from all walks of life who are welcome,” Dov Muchnik said.


Rabbi Yosef Muchnik (left), of Chabad of Camarillo, and Rabbi Yakov Latowicz, of Chabad of Ventura, light the 20-foot menorah for the sixth night of Hanukkah during the Hanukkah festival at the Ventura Harbor. RICHARD QUINN/SPECIAL TO THE STAR


Karen Cesario (from left), Irma Bañuelos, Stefanie Croxen and Elsa Valdez perform a traditional Israeli dance to the music of the Los Angeles band Automatic Toys during the 12th Annual Hanukkah Festival at the Ventura Harbor. RICHARD QUINN/SPECIAL TO THE STAR


Aharon Codella smiles behind his dreidel glasses as he doles out hot chocolate and doughnuts during the 12th Annual Hanukkah Festival at the Ventura Harbor. RICHARD QUINN/SPECIAL TO THE STAR


Eliahu Harris (left) follows the Jewish tradition of getting his first haircut shortly after his third birthday by Rabbi Dov Muchnik, of Chabad of Oxnard, during the 12th Annual Hanukkah Festival at the Ventura Harbor. RICHARD QUINN/SPECIAL TO THE STAR