FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS HANUKKAH BEGINS AT SUNDOWN.
Somewhere in Southern California, there's a rabbi driving with an electric menorah blazing on the roof of his car.
In counterpoint to the "other" winter holiday, Rabbi Yisroel Levine has planted the 2-foot menorah in the breeze that reads "Chabad Wishes You a Happy Hanukkah."
"What's important is that the Jewish community will know that they have a holiday they can be proud of," said Levine, of Chabad of the Conejo. "The message is about good prevailing over evil."
Right over might. Light over darkness. Hope over despair. At sundown tonight, Jews throughout the world will begin the eight-day festival of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.
Families will gather 'round each night to light one more candle of the menorah then recite three blessings thanking God for past miracles.
Some will eat potato latkes, jelly doughnuts and chocolate gelt. Others will dispense gelt, or coins, to their children. Or spin dreidel tops whose Hebrew letters honor "a great miracle happened here."
There was the ancient miracle when the Jewish Maccabees vanquished a Syrian-Greek army that tried to outlaw Judaism.
And the miracle when the Jews returned to their desecrated temple in Jerusalem to find only enough oil to light a lamp one day - and it would burn for eight.
At Temple Judea in Tarzana and West Hills, 100 preschoolers have been making menorahs to herald all the miracles of Hanukkah.
"Miracle No. 1 is ... life," said Rabbi Donald Goor, head rabbi of the reform synagogue and school. "Miracle No. 2 is the victory of religious freedom over oppression.
"The holiday is a reminder of hope - even in dark times, we can create light."
At the Encino home of Rabbi Mark Diamond, a silver menorah shines from the window, a tradition. Homemade menorahs, made long ago by his children, will once again flicker in the living room.
The candles will shine in the dark of winter to illuminate hope - and faith - during difficult times.
"When we light the menorah, we will talk about the people who are suffering - the Baha'is of Iran; Gilad Shalit, the captured Israeli soldier; people in our community," said Diamond, executive vice president for the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.
"How powerfully that message resounds to struggling families who are hungry, families whose children will not receive toys this holiday, families who are struggling to keep their homes, to pay their bills," he said.
"We see this all over Los Angeles."
Out of Orthodox Chabad centers across the city, Jews will visit senior homes, tend children with special needs and conduct programs for teens and for the community at large.
And Jews will light menorahs in synagogues. At home. In shopping centers. And plugged-in candelabras on their cars.
"The idea," Levine said, "is to spread the miracle, to make people aware of light over darkness, good over evil, that when we feel that darkness has the upper hand, along comes Hanukkah - telling us that we can illuminate our lives through goodness."
History of Hanukkah
Hanukkah begins today at sundown. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century B.C.
Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, and it may occur from late November to late December.
The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a special candelabrum, the nine-branched menorah, one additional light on each night of the holiday. An extra light called a shamash is also lit each night for the purpose of lighting the others, and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest.
In the United States, Hanukkah is considered one of several primary holidays within the Christmas and holiday season.
Source: Daily News research
(color) Emma Rex, left, Jade Wolf, center, and Alanna Federbush play with dreidels Thursday at Temple Judea in Tarzana as the Southland's Jewish community prepares for Hanukkah - the Festival of Lights - an eight-day celebration that begins today at sundown.
Andy Holzman Staff Photographer