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‘Put on a light’: Chabad of La Jolla illuminates Prospect Street with a drive-through Hanukkah celebration

Chabad of La Jolla held a menorah lighting Dec. 13 in front of the La Valencia Hotel on Prospect Street.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Hoping to spread a light in The Village, Chabad of La Jolla held its menorah lighting outside the La Valencia Hotel on Dec. 13, adapting the annual Hanukkah celebration into a drive-through to align with pandemic-related restrictions.

The hour-long celebration, which began at 5 p.m., included balloons and decorations strung across Prospect Street, music playing and a fire dancer performing at the stop sign at Herschel Avenue.

Rabbi Baruch Ezagui, center, speaks against a backdrop of Hanukkah balloons and a fire dancer.
Rabbi Baruch Ezagui, center, speaks against a backdrop of Hanukkah balloons and a fire dancer. The menorah is about “blessing our community with light,” he says.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Speaking into a microphone at the intersection of Prospect and Herschel next to a large menorah, Rabbi Baruch Ezagui said: “We’re going to be blessing our community with light. That’s what the menorah is all about — not being satisfied with one light but adding another one and another one.”

A large menorah is lighted by a Chabad of La Jolla community member as Rabbi Baruch Ezagui speaks.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

He then asked another Chabad of La Jolla member to light four of the menorah’s wicks — as it was the fourth of eight nights of the Hanukkah holiday — using the center wick, called a shamash, or helper.

As motorists drove past the hotel, Ezagui and other chabad community members handed Hanukkah kits containing a menorah, dreidel and more through the car windows while wishing passengers a happy Hanukkah.

Margaret Kahn gives out Hanukkah kits to passing cars as part of the drive-through menorah lighting.
Margaret Kahn gives out Hanukkah kits to passing cars as part of the drive-through menorah lighting.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Ezagui’s wife, Ester, said the event was “very important to get the excitement of Hanukkah out there to the whole Jewish community. This year, especially, it’s been hard, so we’re really happy to be able to be here for the community.”

Baruch Ezagui said Chabad of La Jolla previously celebrated Hanukkah at The Lot movie theater with a couple of hundred people who “look forward to it the whole year.”

But Chabad of La Jolla had been planning a larger indoor celebration at the La Valencia since last year, “before the virus,” Ezagui said. It was then adapted into the drive-through event.

Ezagui said more than 100 Hanukkah kits were given out to the steady stream of cars. “I think we brought the most traffic to Prospect in the last month,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”

“Every single household in La Jolla that needs our help is considered a member” of Chabad of La Jolla, he said, which “is a unique group in the sense that our membership is not paid in dues. Our membership is paid in commitment, in partnership, and we’re in this together.”

“You can beat darkness,” he said. “All you have to do is put on a light.” ◆