Boro goes big for Hanukkah: Giant menorahs lit across Brooklyn to begin holiday

Brooklyn Paper
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All smiles: These two eagerly awaited the lighting of the massive menorah’s first candle.
A latke fun: Rabbi Shimon Hecht showed off a fresh batch of potato latkes, a favorite Hanukkah delicacy.
Human dreidel: Yankel Berky dressed up as the popular spinning toy to spread some holiday cheer.
And down south: Coney Islanders celebrated the first day of the Jewish festival of lights with their own gigantic candleholder.
Chag sameach!: Councilman Mark Treyger, far left, and local police officers joined the festivities.

It was massive menorah madness!

Brooklynites across the borough rung in the first night of Hanukkah around menorahs that towered over locals who gathered to kick-off the Jewish festival of lights, including one gigantic candelabra that drew an equally large crowd, according to the rabbi who erected it.

“We had around 2,000 people, and estimate it was the largest public menorah lighting ever in New York City,” said Moshe Hecht, a Jewish scholar from Park Slope and the executive coordinator of “the largest menorah.” “We kicked off Hanukkah the New York way.”

Revelers from as far as Israel packed into Grand Army Plaza on Tuesday to watch organizers light the more than 32-foot candleholder on the inaugural night of the eight-day celebration, according to Hecht, who said the huge menorah — which lit up the plaza for its 33rd year — uplifts those who pass by it.

“The idea to put the menorah in a public place inspires people,” he said. “It gives them hope that they pass along to their family and friends.”

And last year’s rabbinical court ruling that prohibited organizers from claiming the gargantuan menorah is the largest in the world in no way dampened the holiday spirit, according to the rabbi.

“The event was fantastic,” Hecht said. “There was great music, hot latkes, and people really got involved.”

Leaders of a Coney Island congregation ushered in Hanukkah with a bash that boasted its own colossal candelabra — allegedly Southern Brooklyn’s largest — which attracted a crowd of locals and pols including Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island), who spoke at the event, according to its host.

“The councilman was on target with his speech,” said Rabbi David Okunov of the Warbasse Jewish Heritage Congregation. “He talked passionately about preserving Jewish holidays.”

The rabbi said this year’s festival of lights began even more cheerfully because of President Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“The return of Jerusalem is something we’ve always felt and prayed for,” he said. “For the United States to recognize it as the undivided capital before Hanukkah added a dimension.”

The story of Hanukkah dates back to the second-century BC, when a Jewish army called the Maccabees defeated the Seleucid Empire and took control of Jerusalem, after which they went to light the menorah in the city’s temple. And even though they only had enough oil for the candle to burn for one night, it burned for eight, leading people to call it a miracle.

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Updated 5:51 pm, July 9, 2018
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