Two days after vandals destroyed a 15-foot menorah on the town green of a southern Orange County planned community, more than 500 area residents proceeded with a scheduled Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony Monday.
Ushering in the second night of the Jewish festival with another menorah provided by a local organization, Jews and other celebrants said the event demonstrated that intolerance was not welcome in Ladera Ranch, a community near Mission Viejo.
"There will always be hate crimes," said Randy Hickman, a non-Jew from Rancho Santa Margarita who said he came to show his support for the Jewish community. "The moral is: When there is an injustice in the world, we must stand up against that," he said.
Standing around a gazebo, participants released more than 100 blue and white balloons. Children decorated holiday cookies and received candles, chocolate coins symbolic of the holiday, and dreidels -- spinning tops used in a traditional Hanukkah game.
The eight-day festival celebrates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem in 165 BC by the Maccabees after their victory over the Syrians. According to legend, the victors who lighted the temple lamp discovered that it had only enough oil to last one day, but miraculously it lasted for eight. This is celebrated annually by lighting candles on the nine-branched candelabrum known as the menorah.
Ladera Ranch resident Robert Cohen, who made the 150-pound steel menorah that was vandalized, told the group he would make a new one next year. "It is spoken at Hanukkah that a great miracle happened there," he said. "A great miracle has happened here. We must remember that the terrible acts of a few do not reflect the feelings of all."
Sometime between 10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday, someone cut the giant menorah's stem, broke its lightbulbs and smashed its stars, according to the Sheriff's Department. The act, which was labeled a hate crime, has remained under investigation.
Ladera Ranch residents conducted the ceremony Monday with a 6-foot menorah lent by Chabad Jewish Center of Mission Viejo. Ladera Ranch resident Brian Maso also brought a 9-foot menorah made by his children and their friends from 2-by-4s and a 4-inch drainage pipe. Others brought small menorahs.
In a steady solemn chant, Rabbi Zalman Marcus of the Chabad center said a Hanukkah prayer in Hebrew before lighting the two candles symbolic of the holiday's second night. Then he broke into a dance with a traditional song:
Oh Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah
Come light the menorah.
Let's have a party.
We'll all dance the hora....