Public Chanukah lightings scheduled in Bay Area cities

Beth Chaim Congregation of Danville has congregant Jon Bronstein to thank for the design of its 7-foot wooden chanukiah. With help from members of the synagogue's brotherhood, Bronstein constructed the 250-pound chanukiah, which will be used at the third annual public lighting in Blackhawk Plaza. Bronstein, a Danville resident and employee of Agilent Technologies, was a general contractor for eight years.

"I worked as a contractor until 1992," said Bronstein. "That's when the accident happened."

Bronstein was on a ski slope when he was hit in the head by a snowboarder. Unable to continue his contracting work, Bronstein made a significant career change and studied biomedical engineering.

While he had switched professions, his desire to build something was awakened by the prospect of designing the chanukiah. Using layers of mahogany plywood for the body, he enlisted the help of about 15 congregation members.

"Lots of experimentation," said Bronstein when asked to describe the process. "It took about 15 working days. We ended up using copper drain fittings to make the flames burn properly."

The tree-like chanukiah will be lit each night of Chanukah beginning Thursday and concluding Dec. 28 in the main rotunda area of Blackhawk Plaza. The exception will be Dec. 26, when the lighting will move to the Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living, 4000 Camino Tassajara, Danville.

Last year the public lighting attracted more than 1,000 people. This year, the first night will focus on the Beth Chaim community, and will honor past and present congregation leaders. A joint celebration with Contra Costa Jewish Community Center will take place on the second night. Food will be available as kindergarten, first- and second- grade classes sing together. The final night will feature eight representative faith leaders completing the lighting with members of Beth Chaim. For more information on this event, call (925) 362-0347.

For the first time ever, Chabad of Noe Valley will hold public lighting ceremonies in San Francisco at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The early lighting will be held in the center of the Stonestown Galleria Shopping Mall. The later ceremony will be held on an amphibian vehicle on 24th Street between Sanchez and Noe streets.

"We're using the vehicle because it can go on land and on sea," said Rabbi Gedalia Potash. "The message of Chanukah is supposed to be able to reach across the world."

The program will include Chanukah songs, a raffle, music and distribution of gelt and dreidels.

In addition to the lighting events, Chabad of Noe Valley will hold an olive press demonstration. Children will be able to create and decorate menorahs. Being held at 360 Valley St., the cost is $5 per child. For more information on the lightings or the demonstration, call (415) 821-7046.

Also in San Francisco, the Union Square menorah will be lit for the 26th year. Candlelighting is at 5 p.m. Thursday; 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 22; 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 23; 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 24, and 5 p.m. Dec. 25 through Dec. 28.

Sunday, Dec. 24 is Bill Graham Menorah Day. Entertainment, which includes Mozaik, Rabbi Asi Spiegel from Israel, Felonious: One Love Hip Hop, Rokdim Beyachad Dance Troupe and Schlomo Katz from Los Angeles, will begin at noon.

For information on the Union Square festivities, call Chabad of S.F., (415) 362-6355.

Chabad of Marin will sponsor lightings every night of Chanukah at the Mall at Northgate in Terra Linda. The lightings will take place at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, 3:15 p.m. Friday, Dec. 22, 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 23 and 6 p.m. Dec. 24 to 27.

On the first night of Chanukah, San Rafael Mayor Al Boro and Mike Stone of Mollie Stone's Market will be on hand. Live music, food, face painting, olive pressing and card making will round out the festivities. For information, call (415) 492-1666.

In the East Bay, Chabad of Contra Costa will hold public lightings at the Broadway Plaza Promenade fountain across the street from Nordstrom in Walnut Creek.

At 4:30 p.m. Thursday, first-night festivities will include live music, a children's choir and distribution of menorah kits. Candles will be lit at 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 22, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 23 and 5 p.m. Dec. 24 to 28. For information, call (925) 937-4101.

Chabad House of Berkeley will sponsor Chanukah lightings in five locations. The first will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at Jack London Square in Oakland. Live music will be featured.

The second is planned for 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 24 at a skating event at Berkeley Iceland. The event will feature the lighting of an ice menorah.

At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 26 at Cody's Book Store, 1730 Fourth St. in Berkeley, Mayor Shirley Dean will attend the third lighting, and live music will play.

Other Chabad House-sponsored lightings take place at Barnes & Noble stores, with one at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27 at the Richmond store, 4000 Klose Way, and another at 6 p.m.Thursday, Dec. 28 at the downtown Berkeley store, 2352 Shattuck Ave. For information on these events, call (510) 540-5824.

Chabad of the South Bay's annual public menorah lighting is planned at 4:30 p.m.Sunday, Dec. 24 at City Hall Plaza, 250 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto.

Included in the activities and programs will be Moshie the Clown, face painting, live music and dancing.

In addition to the lighting, "Chanukah on Ice" will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 26 at the Winter Lodge, 3009 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. The cost, which will include skate rental, refreshments, a giant menorah and face painting, is $12 per child.

For more information on these South Bay events, call (650) 424-9800.

In Lyman Park, located at 1400 Main St. in St. Helena in the Napa Valley, an electric menorah will be illuminated at 6 p.m. from Dec. 21 to Dec. 28. The public is invited to participate. For more information, call Julie Ann Kodmur at (707) 963-9632.