As Jewish people mark the start of Chanukah with menorah lightings taking place across the globe, rabbis have also talked about the gloom over this year’s celebrations due to the Israel-Hamas war and rampant antisemitism.
‘At this fraught time for Jews with rising antisemitism and the war in Israel Jews around the world are more inspired and more resolute in bringing more light into this world amid the darkness,’ Chabad Rabbi Motti Seligson told DailyMail.com.
On Thursday night, thousands are expected to gather for the New York City candle lighting ceremony near The Plaza Hotel – 5th Avenue and 59th Street – to watch ‘the World’s Largest Menorah,’ a towering-36-foot menorah – light up on the first night of Chanukah.
New Yorkers are joining others in Berlin, Paris, London and other places across the globe to mark Hanukah’s message. The annual eight-day holiday begins on Thursday.
Chanukah comes as Israel continues to battle with Hamas terrorists, after the organization launched a surprise Oct. 7 attack slaughtering 1,200 and kidnapping 240 more. The war has led to a massive uptick in antisemitism with both physical and verbal attacks against innocent Jews.
‘Instead of hiding, in the face of antisemitism Jews around the world are doubling down on their identity and observance,’ Seligson said.
New York City: Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Shmuel Butman speaks next to the world’s largest Hanukkah menorah placed by Chabad-Lubavitch stands at NYC’s Grand Army Plaza on December 18, 2022, the first night of the eight-day holiday
Organizers of this year’s New York City event hope it will be brighter than ever to ensure hate never wins.
There will be 15,000 public menorahs that will shine brightly across the world in celebration of the ‘Festival of Lights arranged by Chabad organizers. Seligson calls the menorah a beacon of hope,’ for all those who are suffering.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul are expected to attend one of the nightly lightings that will run through December 15, Seligson said.
There has been a staggering 388 percent increase in antisemitism in America since Hamas’ October 7 surprise attack in Israel that killed more than 1,200.
In Washington, thousands are people are expected to attend this 45th lighting of the Menorah. The annual event is set for 4pm on the Ellipse near the White House and the National Mall.
This year, the Second Gentleman, Doug Emhoff, will attend and participate, including the Attorney General Merrick Garland and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
In St. Louis, Missouri hundreds are expected to attend the 6pm menorah lighting that will be held near the Arch. The 29-foot tall menorah is the first time they have erected a menorah of this sise.
‘This is the first time we have erected a menorah this size. It is by far the tallest menorah in the history of Missouri (2nd place is 15’), the tallest west of the Mississippi, and one of the tallest in the world,’ Rabbi Chaim Landa, with Chabad of Greater St. Louis, Missouri said.
The celebrations in America echo what has been seen across the globe.
On Thursday, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, wearing a black kippah, the traditional Jewish head covering, stood in Brandenburg Gate during a public menorah lighting.
It marked the first time in history that a German head of state attended a public-menorah lighting ceremony.
The Brandenburg celebration enters its 20th year and its menorah is 32-feet high.
The chancellor spoke about anti-Semitism, past and present, sending a powerful message of solidarity with Germany’s Jewish community, as well as Jews around the world. Thousands attended the milestone event.
Families of Israeli hostages being held captive in Gaza attended the ceremony as well as guests of Berlin’s Jewish community, as well as many dignitaries including the president of the German parliament Bärbel Bas and Israel’s ambassador to Germany Ron Prosor.
Chabad Rabbi of Berlin Yehuda Teichel told DailyMail.com that ‘exactly two months after the terrible massacre on 7 October which was driven by hate and darkness, a light is being lit to spread out the message of freedom and the democracy over.’
Europe’s largest menorah at the Brandenburg gate in Berlin (pictured). A photo is held up of Bradenburg gate during Nazi occupation that shows flags of the Nazi swastikas
‘The message is loud and clear, we will not give into terror and not let any of these terrible atrocities to overcome us, rather the Jewish people will stand strong and tall with pride and identity to strength and tolerance and awareness among all people and society,’ he said.
‘This was the lesson and the message that the Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Schneerson has taught us and we are happy to share this in society today.’
The site where the Chanukah ceremony was held was where Kristallnacht – the ‘Night of Broken Glass’ when the Nazi regime coordinated a wave of antisemitic violence and burned down businesses, stores, etc. – 85 years ago.
‘This was the exact spot where a famous Nazi marches took place- 85 years after the program night on 9 November 1938,’ said Rabbi Teichel noting Thursday’s lighting and the chancellor’s attendance as one of ‘great significance.
In Paris last week, a German tourist was killed in a knife and hammer attack near the Eiffel Tower that left two people wounded.
President Emmanuel Macron called the incident ‘a terrorist attack,’ and the 26-year-old suspect, a French national, who pledged allegiance to Islamic State, was arrested, Reuters reported.
But, in the face of terror, Jews across the world continue to gather.
Rabbi Mendel of the Chabad in Paris told DailyMail.com on Wednesday that the ‘terrorists can’t win.’
Their public lighting menorah celebration is set for Sunday at the Eiffel Tower, a 30-year tradition he said, that will continue.
‘People had asked if the lighting ceremony will happen this year’ Mendel said, ‘I said 100 percent.’
He said the permits for the lighting were just signed. ‘It was given under the statement that life has to continue and light and joy in the community shouldn’t change but is needed now more than ever.’
The police and Jewish safety organizations have taken extra precautionary measures by adding more security at Jewish schools, lighting events that are taking place, including where children’s Chanukah parties are being held.
‘Chanukah is a happy holiday,’ he said. ‘The message is that not only does life have to go on, but the light of Chanukah has to to change the world on a positive level.’
He said the ceremony is expected to draw five to 6,000 people. Among those in attendance expected to be the Chief Rabbi of Paris and some representatives from City Hall.
Other celebrations, in and around Paris, will be 80 menorah lighting celebrations over celebration.
On Wednesday, a woman posted on YourJewishLife from Berlin, Germany, a photo of ‘then and now’ showing a photo of Bradenburg gate in Berlin in 1930s’ during Nazi occupation and Brandeburg Gate today with the towering menorah.
‘Jewish survival is perhaps the greatest miracle of all Jewish history,’ she wrote.
‘Hanukkah starts the evening of this Thursday, December 7, and in the midst of this dark time for the Jewish people we’ve never been more excited to celebrate this holiday of Jewish strength and continuity.’
‘Will you be putting your Menorah in your front window?’ she asked. ‘I certainty will be.’
In London, Trafalgar Square in Westminster has its giant menorah on display.
Though a public ceremony will not be held, lights will be lit on the menorah starting on the eve of Thursday through December 14, every day at 4pm and 5.15pm on Saturday.
The public menorah is free and is run by the mayor’s office Sadiq Khan.
The ‘World’s Largest Menorah’ that has been referred to as a beacon of hope is designed by Israeli artist Yaacov Agam.
It is inspired by a hand drawing by Maimonides of the original menorah in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.
The Chanukah celebration- organized by the Lubavitch Youth Organization- will also include a live concert on Tuesday December 13 featuring Hasidic popstar Eli Marcus–spirited Chassidic dancing and Hanukkah treats.
The candle lighting in New York is as follows: Thurs. at 5.30pm; Fri., Dec. 8 at 3.30pm; Sat., Dec. 9 at 8.30 pm.; Sun., Dec. 10 at 5.30 pm – concert with Hasidic popstar Eli Marcus; Mon., Dec. 11 at 5.30 pm; Tue., Dec. 12 at 5.30pm; Wed., Dec. 13 at 5.30pm and Thu., Dec. 14 at 5.30pm.