Annual Chanukah On The River event held in San Antonio

A large crowd of people gathered to celebrate and watch as the menorah was lit.

SAN ANTONIO – On the second to last night of Hanukkah, the Jewish community felt the love in San Antonio.

Voices from the crowd gathered at the Arneson River Theatre echoed the Hanukkah blessings and Mayor Ron Nirenberg lit the first candle on the rainbow menorah on Sunday.

“Represents the kaleidoscope of humanity that comes together to celebrate religious freedom and freedom in general,” Rabbi Chaim Block said. He led the ceremony along the River Walk.

It’s the 24th year of Chanukah On The River, and it’s extra special this year after returning in-person, following last year’s virtual celebration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are so excited to be able to get back in-person, celebrating with everyone together. This wonderful, beautiful holiday of lights called Hanukkah,” Block said.

A mariachi band sang tunes of Hanukkah as families in the stands sang and clapped along.

This celebration comes almost a month after the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht, when the Jewish Federation of San Antonio hosted a Unity Over Hate’ event to bring the community together after anti-Semitic messages shook the city.

Neighbors in a North Side community found anti-Jewish fliers in their driveways. Days later, people demonstrated across from the JCC with anti-Jewish signs.

Then, a sign with a swastika appeared on a South Side business.

”We have seen acts of hatred and intolerance and antisemitism. And as the message stated tonight, those are diseased roots and we will pull them out of our garden,” Nirenberg said.

That night, 350 people, some of the Jewish faith and others who were not, joined in-person to show there’s no place for hate in San Antonio.

As Hanukkah slowly comes to an end, that same message rang true during the event on the River Walk.

“It’s especially meaningful to be able to get out in the community, in public, and celebrate a Jewish holiday with the rest of the community as well,” Block said.

Rabbi Block hopes that every person who joined in this celebration walks away knowing they are important and have a purpose in this world no one else can fill. He says that’s the message of Hanukkah.

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.