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Gov. joins rabbi in Statehouse Hanukkah festival

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A Kansas rabbi joined Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday for a celebration of Hanukkah in the Statehouse where dozens were urged to help bring light to the world, starting with a 6-foot-tall menorah on the second-floor rotunda.

"Let's put aside some of the challenges we've been experiencing in the world at large, and let's pledge together to do our part to light up the world, starting with these eight candles here tonight," Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel said.

Brownback lit the first candle and passed it to several special guests who lit the remaining candles, one by one, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported ( ). The event took place the previous two years at Cedar Crest, the governor's official residence.

Prior to the lighting, Brownback said the Jewish people are a wonderful group that has unfortunately been persecuted in many places. He promised the audience members they weren't going to struggle in Kansas because of their beliefs.

"I want you to feel welcome in Kansas," Brownback said.

Lt. Col. Moran Omer, of the Israel Defense Forces, lit one of the candles with his young son. Omer, who is stationed at Leavenworth to attend command classes, said Israeli commanders have knowledge and advice they can share with the U.S.

The event was sponsored by the Chabad of Kansas, which offers Jewish education, outreach and social service programming. Tiechtel said Chabad is the world's largest and fastest-growing Jewish group, and that similar celebrations have taken place in 47 state capitals and in more than 81 countries over the past week.

He said staging the festival at the Statehouse was especially meaningful.

"I hope people will appreciate the diversity of Kansas," he said.