On Sunday, the fifth night of Hanukkah, U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) joined a local rabbi in lighting a nearly 7-foot Jerusalem stone menorah at Fashion Island.
With Thanksgiving and the Festival of Lights falling on the same long weekend, the Christian congressman highlighted the struggles for religious freedoms faced by the Pilgrims and the Maccabees.
"Its very symbolic to me because I identify with America first and foremost," he said, "and America, first and foremost, is about respecting other people's faith, or lack of faith."
The eight-day Jewish holiday and Thanksgiving coincided this year for the first time since 1889, something that will not happen again for hundreds of years, according to Rabbi Reuven Mintz of Newport Beach's Chabad Jewish Center.
"It's a holiday where we celebrate the message of the menorah, which is universal, over religious freedom across the globe," Mintz said. "Freedom over oppression, light over darkness, the weak over the mighty."
After sparking the menorah — specially made for the event with limestone imported from Jerusalem — the rabbi and the congressman thanked the audience for being true to their faith and their ideals.
More than 100 people attended the lighting ceremony, hosted by the Chabad Jewish Center, and were treated to live music from Fischel and the Hot Shots, who played Adam Sandler's "The Chanakuh Song," among others.
Teens from the center's Friendship Circle — a program that supports special-needs children — also performed songs, including the children's classic "I have a Little Dreidel."
The event also offered a crafts table — a hit with 3-year-old Gabriel Jaramillos, who focused intently on stringing a beaded necklace as the music played in the background.
His parents, Michael and Heather Jaramillos of Garden Grove, brought their five kids to the event for the third year. As a multifaith family, they said it was a good opportunity to celebrate Hannukah.
Their family marked the dual holiday on Thursday by combining two traditions by smothering latkes — fried potato pancakes — in cranberry sauce.
Latkes (sans the cranberry sauce) and doughnuts were also handed out at the Fashion Island event; both are Hannukah staples.
Mintz said both treats symbolize elements of Hannukah. They are deep-fried in oil, and the miracle of the lamp oil lasting eight nights is the root of the holiday.