A Chandler Jewish learning center that was tagged with swastikas earlier this year is planning a free, 10-day public Hanukkah festival in December.
Chabad of the East Valley, 3875 W. Ray Road, just east of McClintock Drive, plans to stage “Chanukah Wonderland” from Dec. 6-16. In addition to being educational about Hanukkah, the event will feature hands-on olive press demonstrations, a holiday crafts corner and other amusements for children.
“There are going to be different things going on each day,” said Linda Lindberg, Chabad office manager. “A lot of the stuff is geared toward children.”
Hanukkah 2009 begins Friday evening, Dec. 11 and runs through Dec. 19. The annual holiday, also known as the Festival of Lights, commemorates the Jewish belief that a miracle occurred during the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem around 200 B.C. The Temple had been destroyed by the Seleucid Empire, which stretched from Turkey to Pakistan and was an offshoot of the empire founded by Alexander the Great.
The miracle involved the discovery of a single container of ritual olive oil used to keep the Temple menorah perpetually lit. The oil, thought to be just enough for a single day, instead burned for eight days, until a new supply of ritual oil could be prepared.
“In ancient times our ancestors rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem with the Menorah,” said Chabad Rabbi Mendy Deitsch. “Today, we rededicate ourselves to making this world a better and brighter place.”
The Chandler Chabad has plans to build and move into a larger facility on a dirt lot just to the west of its existing location. Lindberg said the work has been stalled because of the ongoing economic downturn.
In May, an unidentified person drew swastikas on the sign advertising the future Chabad House, along with the letters “WWWP” — thought to refer to neo-Nazism — and a vulgar comment about Jews, according to Chandler police. Chandler police have said the culprit left behind no evidence, and video surveillance from nearby businesses turned up nothing.
Lindberg said the Chandler center has had no additional problems since the incident.
Last December, a suspicious package was mailed to the Chabad of Scottsdale that made reference to a terrorist attack in India that left more than 170 dead. A law enforcement bomb squad opened the package to find it contained only harmless papers.
Scottsdale police said the mailer turned out to be a former student of the Scottsdale center who had mental problems. No charges were filed.