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Menorah ceremony shines a light on work of Rev. Al Tysick

Congregation Emanu-El held a ceremony for the lighting of one of B.C.’s largest Hanukkah menorahs Sunday in Centennial Square, and used the occasion to honour the work of Rev. Al Tysick.
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Rabbi Harry Brechner, left, and Rev. Al Tysick at the menorah lighting at Centennial Square on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. TIMES COLONIST

Congregation Emanu-El held a ceremony for the lighting of one of B.C.’s largest Hanukkah menorahs Sunday in Centennial Square, and used the occasion to honour the work of Rev. Al Tysick.

Tysick oversaw Our Place for several years and then continued to work with Victoria’s poor and vulnerable before retiring this year.

Rabbi Harry Brechner said the lighting of the menorah’s candles marks the last night of the eight-day Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

COVID-19 has curtailed such events of late, he said. “We haven’t had a public lighting in a while.”

At least 200 people attended.

Recognizing Tysick seemed like an appropriate thing to do at the gathering, Brechner said. He said Tysick deserves to be acknowledged “for all that he’s done for our city.”

“We’ve worked with Rev. Al for the last couple of decades.”

Tysick said the gesture by Congregation Emanu-El means a lot to him.

“It’s quite humbling,” he said. “I worked with the United Church all my life and for the synagogue to recognize my work downtown is very special.”

Jesse and Lauren Hutchinson brought seven-year-old Lily and four-year-old Joshua to the lighting for the first time.

Jesse Huthinson said he enjoyed Hanukkah in his youth “and we just wanted the kids get to experience it, as well.”

“It’s nice because it’s being together, having good meals together and talking about the story.”

The lighting ceremony is about “the miracle and the story of Hanukkah, and bringing light to the world,” Brechner said.

Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the second century B.C. with the lighting of candles on each day of the eight-day celebration.

Those attending Sunday’s event danced to the Yiddish Columbia State Orchestra, a local band, and enjoyed sufganiyahs — traditional Hanukkah doughnuts.

The band’s banjo player, Avram McCagherty, said Hanukkah is a genuine celebration.

“We can light things up, we can play with a big [public-address system] and really party.”

Food and money were collected at Sunday’s event for the food bank at St. John the Divine Church.

jbell@timescolonist.com