SANTA CRUZ >> As hundreds gathered to board the Hanukkah Train on Thursday night at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk platform, Rabbi Yochanan Friedman explained why the wintertime “festival of lights” is the most public of Jewish holidays.
“While Hanukkah celebrates a military victory and the triumph of right over might and the weak over the strong, it is really a celebration of spirituality,” Friedman said.
Two hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ, a small band of faithful Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated the Syrian-Greeks, one of the mightiest armies on earth and drove them from the land.
“The Syrian-Greeks wanted to destroy spirituality. They defiled the ritually pure olive oil used to light the menorah. They said there was no connection between man and God,” Friedman said.
As a result, Friedman sees Hanukkah as a celebration for all religions — a victory for all of humanity’s connection with God.
“That is why Hanukkah is such a public celebration. It is for everyone,” Friedman said.
A menorah is lit in every household and placed in a doorway or window for Hanukkah. The menorah is also lit in synagogues and other public places.
Thursday’s Hanukkah Train, now in its fourth year, attracted more than 400 passengers, according to Roaring Camp Railroads sales coordinator Leatha Brown.
“We’ve seen a big increase over 2015 because of where Hanukkah fell on the calendar this year. Everyone’s out of school and in holiday…
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