Chabad and Chanukah: Let The Sparks Fly


by Baila Olidort - ROME, ITALY

November 29, 2004

With its celebratory spirit toward Jewish life and a penchant for partying, Chabad-Lubavitch and Chanukah are a perfect pairing. Admittedly, since "making the miracles of Chanukah known" is a primary objective of this holiday, Chanukah is not an occasion for nuanced outreach, and Shluchim mine the possibilities of this eight-day festival, delivering bold, high impact messages of Jewish warmth and spiritual illumination.

It’s during these two weeks leading up to Chanukah that Chabad Houses are putting last minute details into place for an event bursting with color and light. Not sure where your local Chabad Chanukah event is? Log on to Chabad.org and a global Chanukah search will give you, as of now, some 982 events in 337 cities. With two weeks yet to Chanukah, there’ll be many more to choose from by the time those cherry pickers lift up the mayor, the governor, or whoever has the honors of putting the flame to the wick on the first night.

Beginning December 7 at dusk, those ubiquitous eight-armed tall menorahs will jut out onto the skylines in city parks and town squares, sparking the curiosity of passing pedestrians and city traffic as they are designed to do.

In Italy, Chabad’s grand Chanukah menorah lighting in the city center has so thoroughly captured the enthusiasm of the Rome's denizens that that this year the municipality offered to participate in sponsoring the event. “We got a call from the Mayor’s office offering to set up the podium, arrange the audio system, and decorate the area,” says Rabbi Yitzchok Chazan, Chabad-Lubavitch representative to Rome.

The menorah is positioned for highest exposure near Michaelangelo’s famous fountain at the Piazza Barberini. More than a thousand are expected at this year’s Chanukah Spectacular on December 12, when Rabbi Chazan will be joined by Rome’s Mayor Walter Veltroni, American Ambassador Mel Sembler, Israeli Ambassador Ehud Gol, and Italy’s Chief Rabbi Shmuel Di Segni at the menorah lighting.

Music, traditional Italian Jewish song and dance, latkes and donuts make it a merry festival for the young, old and those in between. An exclusive kosher cheese and wine-tasting Chanukah event will follow later that night for Jewish singles at the Palazzo Barberini.

“This,” says Chani Benjaminson, Chabad Shlucha to Parioli who planned the event, “is a black tie event so that Jewish singles have an opportunity to meet and mingle.”

Oh, the possibilities.

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