As residents of Omaha, Nebraska, and its environs came to grips with the enormity of a Wednesday tragedy that left nine people dead from a shooter's rampage through a shopping mall, the city's Jewish community came together for a candlelight vigil made all the more poignant by the lighting of the Chanukah menorah.

More than 50 people joined Rabbi Mendel and Shani Katzman, co-directors of the Omaha headquarters of Chabad-Lubavitch of Nebraska, for the ceremony. The menorah lighting was in place of a community menorah-building event that had originally been scheduled to take place in the Westroads Mall, where just hours earlier 19-year-old Robert A. Hawkins opened fire on shoppers, killing eight before turning the gun on himself.

"Chanukah is the time we rededicate ourselves to making this world a better and brighter place," said Mendel Katzman in explaining why the community came together following the tragedy.

Katzman was working to reschedule the original event, which called for the building of a menorah out of donated cans of food that would be given to the Omaha Food Bank to be distributed to the poor.

The rabbi said that Omaha was in a collective state of disbelief, wondering why such a tragedy occurred. Police reports have called the shooting the random act of a loner.

"They were asking questions about the reason why somebody would do that," said Katzman, referring to the participants in the menorah lighting. "It was an opportunity to explain the value of light over darkness, and the need to come together to pray, to try to console and at the same time give hope, and bring some light into our lives in a real way."

While the event was somewhat subdued in the beginning, Katzman noted that the impromptu dancing of children celebrating the miracle of Chanukah gave people hope for the future.

"A sense of hope and resolve was shining through all," he said. "It was very encouraging."