Menorah lighting in Gilbert to honor soldier, teach about holiday - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

Menorah lighting in Gilbert to honor soldier, teach about holiday

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Posted: Thursday, November 28, 2013 4:45 pm

It’ll be a short ceremony — 30 minutes in all — but the second menorah lighting organized by the Chabad Jewish Center of Gilbert this Sunday will celebrate Chanukah while honoring a local soldier.

Scheduled for Dec. 1 from 6 to 6:30 p.m., the ceremony is highlighted by the lighting of a 12-foot menorah to celebrate Chanukah, which officially begins on Thanksgiving Day. Rabbi Shimi Ash said the organizers will light five of the eight candles on the menorah during the event.

Beyond the actual lighting, the ceremony will also feature a traditional song, blessing and some donuts and latkes — better known as potato pancakes — for attendees.

Ash said the event, which took place at Williams Field High School last year, serves several purposes besides celebrating the holiday, starting with the recognition of Gilbert resident and Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg. Remsburg, who will light the menorah, is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and sustained a severe head injury after surviving an explosion in 2009 and spent years trying to recuperate from the injury. Remsburg returned to Gilbert earlier this year, and the New York Times wrote an article about him this past August after President Obama visited him in Phoenix.

Remsburg received a glowing ceremony upon his return to Gilbert, but Ash said finding more opportunities to honor soldiers like Remsburg helps compensate for a lapse in recognition many soldiers receive.

“There is recognition, but any time we can offer that recognition, I think that’s important,” he said.

The ceremony also doubles as a means of educating people about the holiday and about Jewish culture in general. The story of Chanukah goes back to 165 BCE and features a few Jewish soldiers in Jerusalem fighting back against a Greecian ruler who desecrated one of their temples and enacted several practices that went against Jewish law. The odds were against the Jewish soldiers — the army they faced was much, much larger — but they won the battle and reclaimed their temple. Chanukah was established as a celebration of the victory shortly after that.

Ash said the story of Chanukah offers several lessons, including how a little light can dispel the darkness around it. But it’s also an inclusive holiday, one that can provide a little hope and comfort to people of all faiths.

“It’s the holiday season, and Chanukah is a nice and warm holiday,” he said.

The event will take place at San Tan Village near the Harkins Courtyard. Visit www.jewishgilbert.com for additional information about the Jewish center and the event.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-5647 or emungenast@evtrib.com

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