For the first time in the state’s history, Chanukah is being celebrated at the Capitol. Tomorrow, at 3 p.m., Gov. Mary Fallin and First Gentleman Wade Christensen will host a Chanukah menorah-lighting ceremony in the second-floor Blue Room. According to a press release published today by The Edmond Sun, “Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, representing the Chabad branches throughout the state of Oklahoma, will light a silver menorah candelabra with the governor in commemoration of the first day of Chanukah.”
The release also states: “The Menorah lighting event will include many dignitaries, community leaders and clergy from Oklahoma. It will also include a musical performance, traditional treats of latkes, jelly donuts, and drediels for all.” The event is not open to the public.
The ceremony resulted from a conversation between Rabbi Goldman and Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, who represents the northwest part of the city, where the Chabad is located. Holt said he stopped by for a visit with Goldman, who mentioned that, to his knowledge, no one at the Capitol had ever commemorated Chanukah—a practice that is common at other state Capitols and at the White House.
Holt then suggested a Chanukah ceremony to the governor’s office, which immediately moved forward with the idea.
“The saying is, ‘this is an idea whose time has come’—well, this is idea whose time is long overdue,” Holt, whose senate bio says he is a member of an Episcopal church, said. “I’ve only been in the senate for two years, and Gov. Fallin has only been governor for two years, so we can’t speak to governors of the past, but as a state it is surprising that no one ha ever thought to commemorate Chanukah at the Capitol,” he said. “It is part of our holiday routine to commemorate Christmas—we just had the Christmas tree lighting last week—and that’s entirely appropriate. But the Jewish community is very strong in this state, particularly in the urban areas. And it’s entirely appropriate for their community to have their day at the Capitol.
“Obviously, no one disagreed with that. Everyone embraced the idea immediately.”
Holt said his hope is that the Chanukah ceremony continues to be an annual Capitol tradition.
—Holly Wall, News Editor