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Hanukkah NYC: Lighting of the Menorah in Manhattan

NY Senator Charles Shumer Lights Large Menorah in Grand Army Plaza

hanukkah nyc menorah lighting manhattan nycUpdated w/ Photos & Video December 15, 2015 / Midtown Manhattan Neighborhood / Holidays in Manhattan NYC / Manhattan Buzz NYC.

I attended the lighting of one of the World's Largest Menorahs at Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan. It was an unusually warm December night, with the temperatures in the high 50’s, and only a gentle breeze stirring the air. Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan is located just across from the 5th Avenue entrance of the Plaza Hotel at the southeast corner of Central Park.

It’s worth mentioning that there are two Grand Army Plazas in New York City. During Hanukkah, both Grand Army Plazas become the locales wherein two very large, 32 foot high Menorahs are lit. The Brooklyn Grand Army Plaza is located on the northwest corner of Prospect Park in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Large Menorah in Brooklyn, is lit throughout Hanukkah, by Rabbi Shimon Hecht of the Chabad of Park Slope.

Click here to read the rest of our report, including a video, of NYC Hanukkah - Menorah Lighting in Manhattan.


Hanukkah NYC: Lighting of the Menorah in Manhattan

NY Senator Charles Shumer Lights Large Menorah in Grand Army Plaza

worlds largest menorah nyc photoUpdated w/ Photos & Video December 15, 2015 / Midtown Manhattan Neighborhood / Holidays in Manhattan NYC / Manhattan Buzz NYC. Continued.

There were a several hundred people gathered in the plaza prior to the event. We sat quietly conversing, waiting for the event to begin, while Manhattan holiday life swirled around us. Passing cars, buses, taxis, shoppers, tourists, pedestrians and an occasional cyclist tick-tocked through the grand holiday clockwork we call Manhattan and home.

The event began promptly at 5.30 pm as Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman, Director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization and Master of Ceremonies, began a vertical ascent atop a Con Ed cherry picker to draw closer to the oil lamps atop the 32 foot high menorah. He was accompanied by New York Senator Charles Shumer who was one of his cherry-picking passengers.

A Brief History of the Hanukkah Miracle

rabbi butman lubavitch youth organization nyc photoRabbi Butman gave us a brief history of the origins of Hanukkah before turning the microphone over to NY Senator Charles Shumer. Rabbi Butman told us that the annual Hanukkah celebration began over 2,000 years ago [about 165 B.C.E.], when the Maccabee tribe of Jews, revolted and defeated the ruling Greeks, who had begun to prohibit the practice of Judaism.

The Maccabee Jews retook the temple and found only one sealed oil lamp. In what is hailed as a miracle, the oil from the lamp lasted eight days instead of one, giving them the light they needed. Since then, this event has been commemorated through the Hanukkah Holiday by the lighting of the oil lamps for eight days in recognition of the Hanukkah miracle.

Hanukkah Traditions: Food, Music, Prayer, Dreidels & Gelt

hanukkah nyc menorah lighting manhattan nycAs with most holidays, there are traditional foods associated with Hanukkah. Latkes [potato pancackes] and jelly donuts [sufganiyot] are the most notable. Music and prayer are also a part of the tradition, as is giving the symbolic dreidel and gelt [money] to children to make the holiday special. The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top, where script on the square sides reminds the children that “the miracle happened there”. In Israel it’s been amended to “here” as the miracle is said to have happened in the temple in Jerusalem.

I was told by one member of the audience that the dreidel is associated with the holiday because of the role it played over 2,000 years ago. Apparently after the ruling Greeks had barred Jews from observing their own cultural traditions, the Jews would gather to pass on or observe their cultural traditions. Whenever the ruling Greeks or converted Jews passed by, they pretended they were playing with the dreidel.

New York NY Senator Shumer Lights the Menorah in Manhattan NYC

hanukkah celebration manhattan nycNYS Senator Charles Shumer spoke a few words and then recited the three blessings before lighting the first candle [the main candle in the middle of the Menorah is separate from the candles signifying the 8 days]. As you can see in the video, he recited the blessings in perfect Hebrew, certainly making his former teachers proud.

After the Menorah Lighting at Grand Army Plaza, Rabbi Shmuel and Senator Shumer descended back down to earth and Hanukkah music and dancing began. You can view a bit of the dancing in the video.

Rabbi Shmuel will return each night during Hanukkah to light the candle at about 5.30 pm, except on Friday (3.30 pm) and Saturday (8.30 pm).

All in all it was an interesting and informative cultural celebration. Happy Hanukkah.

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