Chanukiah lightings slated across Bay Area

Last year on the first night of Chanukah, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown joined Rabbi Yosef Langer in saying a prayer atop the cherry picker before lighting the first candle in the giant chanukiah in Union Square.

"I told him, `This is the time where miraculous energy is waiting to be showered upon us,'" Langer recalled. "God only knows that San Francisco needs the miraculous.'"

He added, "`You're the mayor and you have the ability to draw God's mercy in and miracles down upon your city.'"

Langer said Brown "closed his eyes — and it's an awesome sight looking down on Union Square with thousands of people."

The mayor spoke to the crowd and later, the rabbi said, "we fed him some latkes."

Brown will join Langer again this year for the 23rd annual chanukiah lighting in Union Square — sponsored by Chabad of S.F., where Langer is spiritual leader — at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 23.

Also, to kick off the international "Israel at 50" celebrations, which will continue through 1998, Consul Eran Etzion from the Consulate General of Israel will light the torch.

Heads of state and dignitaries around the world will participate in similar ceremonies that night, said Consul General Daniel Shek, who will be joining Gov. Pete Wilson in Sacramento.

Subsequent lightings in Union Square will take place at 5 p.m. Dec. 24, 25, 28, 29 and 30; at 3 p.m. Dec. 26; and at 7:30 Dec. 27.

On Sunday, Dec. 28 — named Bill Graham Menorah Day in memory of the man who donated the 22-foot chanukiah to the city in 1975 — music by RebbeSoul will start at 12:30 p.m.

Potato latkes, other refreshments and Chanukah-related items will be sold. Perry Farrell of the rock band Jane's Addiction will climb into the cherry picker with Langer to light the candle.

"It's an opportunity to bring the light of the mama menorah into the hearts and the souls and the streets of San Francisco," said Langer.

In the East Bay, a public lighting — sponsored by Chabad of Contra Costa — also will take place at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 23 at Broadway Plaza Mall's promenade fountain at 1275 Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek.

Rabbi Yaakov Kagan hopes for 1,000 attendees who will witness the second consecutive lighting of the 8-foot-tall chanukiah made of gold-painted pipes and enjoy music by a four-piece band, doughnuts, latkes and clowns.

"Last year there were 400" spectators, he said.

Lightings will continue at 5 p.m. daily through Dec. 30. Entertainment and refreshments also are planned for Sunday, Dec. 28.

"We're getting ready to light up the world," said Kagan. "Each one of us realizes the importance and value to the peace of the entire community and the world at large."

Chabad of the Greater South Bay will host a one-day public lighting at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 28 at City Hall Plaza, 250 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto.

Rabbi Yosef Levin said the 12-foot wooden chanukiah was built about 15 years ago by a master carpenter from Israel.

Moishe Gluck moved with his wife to Palo Alto for a while to be near their son, Levin said.

"I told him we needed a large menorah and he said, `I'll build you one.'"

Because Gluck later returned to Israel, where he died, the lighting ceremony "is almost like in his memory," Levin said.

Sunday's Palo Alto event will feature singing by the newly formed Torah Academy Boys Choir, whose members' ages range from 6 to 13. In addition, 6-year-old Betsale Williams will sing the blessing as Levin lights the chanukiah.

Each child present will be given a dreidel. Hot cider and homemade latkes will be available to the 300 to 350 who usually attend, Levin added.

"This a great holiday," he said. "You can celebrate with pride, [and] that's something Jews don't feel a lot of."