Bris Avrohom — the Hillside-based Chabad Lubavitch organization serving immigrants from the former Soviet Union — has taken to heart the injunction to spread the light of Hanukka to society at large.
Counting the sites established this year — in time for the holiday, which began the evening of Dec. 1 — the organization now has Hanukka menoras in almost 40 public places around New Jersey, from city halls to shopping malls, from bridges to ball parks. Recent additions include Linden City Hall, the Goethals Bridge, and at Phil Rizzuto Park in Union.
“It’s such a beautiful thing,” declared Bris Avrohom leader Rabbi Mordechai Kanelsky, “that we are able to fulfill the mitzva of Hanukka not just to light the candles for ourselves but where everyone can see them, in the most public places.”
Each year, he and the rabbis from the branches around the state have added more menora locations to their list (see sidebar). And despite the legal challenges to erecting menoras on public property, Kanelsky insists it hasn’t been difficult at all to persuade local officials to allow them. Many, in fact, have gladly made an official event of the lighting.
At the menora lighting at Hillside City Hall, scheduled for Wednesday evening’s first candle, Kanelsky said, he was expecting the mayor to be joined by the heads of the fire, police, and health departments. “I think everyone is coming,” he said.
He said, “When I tell these officials how it was for people who were in Russia, they understand what it means for us — how we were afraid of any publicly appointed official, and how we had to light our candles in secret, where no one could see them. Then they understand how much these public displays mean to us.”
The global menora campaign was a top priority of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.