Expect to see a lot more menorahs around town this holiday season.
Some members of the local Jewish community, led by Rabbi Chaim Shaprio, have launched a project to encourage restaurants and shops throughout the village to display an electric menorah in recognition of Hanukkah.
“It is kind of to introduce the message of the menorah in a place like Whistler. The menorah is so universal and every culture celebrates it. And we thought it would be really, really nice to have private establishments display it,” said Shaprio.
Some of the places around town that are displaying the Jewish symbol include the Hilton, the Westin, and the Grocery Store.
Shaprio added, “It is just very rich to walk around the village and be able to see Christmas trees and the menorah and to see how at the core of every religion lays one message, and that is we should always just try to bring light to the world.”
The project comes after the municipality decided this year that the annual lighting of a giant menorah should take place in MY Millennium Place instead of in the Village Square, where it has happened in the past.
Traditionally two Lubacitch B.C. Rabbis from Vancouver would come up to erect and light the menorah.
Diana Waltmann, spokesperson for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, said the decision was made based on complications with which faiths the municipality was supporting.
“We kind of said, if we erect a menorah in Village Square, are we welcoming all faiths that way, or do we have to then erect all the other symbols around this time of year for all of the different faiths,” said Waltmann.
“So what we are saying is that there is an opportunity to put a menorah or to celebrate Hanukkah at Millennium Place, which is a multi-faith chapel,” she said.
Waltmann added that the municipality talked to the local Jewish community about this, and together they agreed that it would be appropriate to have something at the multi-faith chapel rather than outside in the village.
“We basically have said the Village Square is welcoming all faiths, as is Millennium Place, but the place for worship of some sort will be in Millennium Place,” she said.
No official Hanukkah celebrations have yet been organized inside Millennium Place for this year.
According to Greg Diamond, while many different forms of Judaism are practiced in the community, there are only two organized groups in Whistler: Sh’ar Harim and the Sinai Centre.
“You couldn’t say there is one single group of Jewish people. Rabbi Shaprio started his own thing here, and we have a congregation that is called Sh’ar Harim, and in English that is Gateway to the Mountains,” said Diamond.
“You just have to sort of imagine, there is Catholic, there is Protestant, there is Anglican, there is United, there is Lutherans. Well with Jews, it is the same. If you have got three Jews, you need four Synagogues,” he said.
Diamond said his group is not doing anything formally for Hanukkah, which began on Tuesday, Dec. 4 and runs for eight days.
He said Friday night the group is having a party in their home which will involve traditional cooking, lighting the menorah, playing games, and singing songs. Anyone from the community is welcome to contact the group and get involved.
Shaprio is also organizing a Hanukkah gathering on Sunday afternoon at the Spruce Grove Field House for residents, tourists, and seasonal workers.
“It really is just about having a gathering of Jewish people without religion. It is not a religious event, it is just about Jewish culture and celebrating the holiday of Hanukkah, and getting together, socializing, signing, and lighting the menorah,” said Shapiro.