At public spaces worldwide, Chabad shluchim set up straight-arm menorahs that fulfill the mitzvah of publicizing the miracle and informing passersby that there is a Jewish community nearby. In the aftermath of the war in Gaza that inspired anti-Semitic incidents throughout the Jewish diaspora, public displays of Chanukah will be more ambitious, seeking to boost confidence among Jews.
“It symbolizes light overcoming darkness. Be proud. Don’t be afraid,” said Rabbi Eli Blokh of Chabad of Rego Park, who lights the menorah every year at the Federoff Triangle on Queens Boulevard and 67th Road. “My menorah is kosher, as it has a flame. A lot of these menorahs are electric. It’s not strictly halachic. It is a powerful sign.” Regardless of weather conditions, he will have a public celebration on the seventh night with local elected officials and community leaders.
The event was scheduled for that night to avoid conflict with a nearby celebration at Yellowstone Park, where Rabbi Mendy and Chaya Hecht of Chabad of Forest Hills North will have a larger event on the fourth night, a Sunday that includes candy dropped from a fire truck ladder, musicians, and trampoline performers. The lighting is in honor of Jews in Israel whose holiday this year is observed amid the uncertainty of a temporary ceasefire, hostages that remain in captivity, and children who have become orphans.
In West Hempstead, Rabbi Yossi Lieberman always has a menorah in front of his home as a permanent reminder to passersby that this is a Chabad House. Last month, it lost a couple of its lights in an apparent vandalism. The cost of replacement was $2,000, and with the generosity of supporters, Rabbi Lieberman said that not only will his menorah have all of its lights, along with the public menorah at Halls Pond Park, but there will be additional displays throughout the community.
“We’re not victims. We do what we can to share Chanukah with the masses,” he said. “We will have events that are bigger. For children, for the sisterhood, the concert, the fire engine parade, and at the UBS Arena ahead of the Islanders hockey game.”
Inspired by Chabad’s public menorah displays, Yissy and Rachel Orenbuch have their outdoor menorah on their driveway, made from Coca-Cola packing crates stacked together like bricks. Along with five of their seven children building the neighborhood attraction, they invited neighbors to participate in the effort.
“We built it with a support in the back, so that it is extra thick,” Rachel Orenbuch said, mindful of the strong wind. “From above, it’s shaped almost like a T, with a little staircase in the back so that my kids can climb up to light it.”
Her oldest son made aliyah earlier this year, training to serve as a lone soldier, while her oldest daughter is in seminary with her own plans for aliyah. She also has a nephew serving in the military in Gaza. With their safety in mind and the ongoing war, the Orenbuchs printed posters of the hostages and taped them to the menorah.
“Someone on my block had her Support Israel lawn sign stolen,” she said. Rather than feeling intimidated, she teamed up with her neighbors to build a bigger display of Jewish pride. “We decided to print out pictures this year. My son Benny made a big dreidel from the remaining crates.”
Upon hearing of the ceasefire in which Hamas released some of the Israeli captives, the Orenbuchs put yellow tape on those posters with the word “freed.”
“It’s a new beginning. They still need our prayers for their mental well-being and rebuilding,” she said.
By Sergey Kadinsky