This past summer, 13-year-old Marvin Serber was spending time in New York with his family. As he was walking through the city, he looked around and noticed glimpses of Jewish culture everywhere.
“I thought to myself, Milpitas doesn’t have this. I wanted to do something,” said Serber to The Beat.
It was a couple of years ago that Serber and his family had moved from New York to Milpitas. His father had gotten a job with Tesla, and the Serber family decided to relocate.
In September, after his New York trip, Serber showed up at a Milpitas City Council meeting to speak about how strongly he felt that a Menorah Lighting celebration be planned for the community. After that meeting, he began emailing back and forth with the City, and they eventually agreed that he could use their outdoor space to host the event.
Serber and his parents worked over the last few months to plan and prepare for the event. Since November was his Bar Mitzvah, he thought it would be a great idea to take the planning of the Menorah Lighting on as a project, to be able to celebrate this special time with others.
And last night — the last night of Hanukkah — a Menorah Lighting was held at the Civic Center Plaza for the first time in Milpitas history. People gathered near the Christmas tree outside of City Hall in front of a large Menorah to connect, to sing, and to celebrate.
Goodie bags and homemade treats were passed out to guests. The event was well-attended, and Serber and his family made everyone who came feel welcomed.
When The Beat asked Serber why he felt so called to plan and host such an event, he responded:
“I like learning about other cultures and I want people to learn about my culture. In New York, you’re used to learning about other people’s cultures because there, everyone is living on top of each other.”
Milpitas Councilmember Hon Lien was in attendance at the Menorah Lighting. She spoke to The Beat about the Israel-Hamas War, and how she is praying for all the victims. “I pray that the light we illuminate will bring sympathy, love, and understanding to all,” said Councilmember Lien.
Joseph and Nancy Weinstein have been residents of Milpitas since 1976. An interracial couple, they felt that Milpitas would be a great place to live due to its diversity.
Joseph feels that the Menorah Lighting was much-needed in the community. “The more that we learn and know about each other, the more chance there is for peace in the world,” he said.
During the event, Milpitas Mayor Carmen Montano and Councilmember Lien delivered a commendation to Serber for all his efforts in making the Menorah Lighting happen.
In January, Serber has plans to attend the City budget meeting to request that money be allocated to doing a Menorah Lighting every year.
Rabbi Moshe Fuss, who works at the Chabad of Fremont, a community that Serber and his family are a part of, spoke of how proud he was of what Serber had accomplished.
Said Rabbi Fuss, “The first night of Hanukkah, we light one candle, and we go all the way to the eighth. The message is that no matter how much we did yesterday in light and goodness, it’s never enough. We always have to add more light and more goodness; more positivity in ourselves, in our thinking, in our connection to others, in impacting our community. That’s exactly what Marvin did.”