CARSON CITY, NV — Gov. Jim Gibbons’ Capitol office took center stage Thursday for a ceremony honoring the third night of the Festival of Lights, with representatives of Nevada’s Jewish community participating in the lighting of a menorah.
Gibbons helped Supreme Court Justice Michael Cherry in the lighting ceremony central to the Hanukkah holiday and played dreidel for chocolate coins with children from two Nevada Jewish schools. A dreidel is a spinning top that is part of the celebration.
Gibbons quipped that he was going to use the coins to help balance the state’s budget.
Rabbi Shea Harlig, director of Chabad of Southern Nevada, said the ceremony was a first of its kind. By being held in the governor’s office, it represented the entire state.
Children from the Desert Torah Academy in Las Vegas and the Gan Sierra school in Reno, with six rabbis and other guests, gave Gibbons a quick lesson in the holiday.
Harlig said the message of Hanukkah is more important than ever given the state of world affairs because it teaches the lessons of tolerance and freedom of religion.
“This miracle is something that is not only for the Jewish people, but it is for everyone,” he said.
Gibbons said all Nevadans can learn valuable lessons from the Hanukkah celebration, particularly tolerance. And the dreidel game teaches lessons about fiscal management, he said.
Hanukkah, which this year began at sundown Tuesday, traces its roots to about 165 B.C., when the Jewish people rededicated the temple in Jerusalem after a period of many years during which they were prohibited from practicing their religion. When they could find oil to light the menorah for only one day, the oil miraculously lasted for eight days.
The candles are lit at dusk in part to “teach us that we have to bring light into the world,” Harlig said.