Chanukah on Union Square
Well although I’m not much of a religious person, I have over the years admired the Jewish faith. It’s not so much the religious part of it I guess, as much as the tradition part of it and the strong sense of community and culture that the religion fosters. Without getting into the politics of Judaism, I’ve always admired the rich sense of family and closeness that the religion seems to embrace. When I was growing up as a kid my father had a deep sense of respect for the Jews. Perhaps this is where my respect for the religion is rooted. Although my dad was a Christian and not a Jew, he had many close friends that were Jews and we even celebrated Passover a few times at our home when he had some of his Jewish friends over. Even this Christmas I still sensed my father’s respect for the Jewish customs and traditions when he lit a menorah in our family home.
I’m nowhere near as religious as my father, in fact not religious at all, but I did enjoy watching the lighting of the menorah in Union Square earlier this evening. Apparently they have been lighting the menorah in Union Square since 1975. Legendary rock promoter Bill Graham was a force behind this and despite the religious tones of the ceremony in the public space, it has gone on now for over 30 years. Rabbi Yosef Langer who spoke tonight reflected back on Bill Graham and his contributions to the Union Square lighting. He talked about Bill also being involved with a psychedelic Christmas Tree one year. He remembered a solitary word that Bill Graham spoke to him when he was asked why the ceremony was so important to him. That single word was survival.
The ceremony was a moving tribute and it is nice to see that here in San Francisco in 2005 you can still spend a few minutes in the early evening with strangers and observe this public event even as an outsider. Here is another account from years past that I found on the ceremony. I’ve got a short set up on Flickr of tonight’s lighting.
Merry Christmas and a Happy Chanukah to all.