On Sunday, December 22, six of Westchester’s Chabad Centers joined together to host the first “Chanukah City” celebration, at Yonkers’ Ridge Hill Shopping Center. Over 1,000 participated in complimentary indoor and outdoor holiday activities
Chabad of Yonkers’ Rabbi Mendy Hurwitz explained, “For the past seven years, since Ridge Hill opened, we have been doing public menorah lightings there. Last Chanukah, the mall’s general manager attended and was really amazed. He told me he wants everyone to feel at home when they come to Ridge Hill. He asked me to make this wonderful event even greater. He suggested closing the streets for a celebration and Chanukah activities.”
“After Chanukah ended, I reached out to Rabbi Benjy Silverman from Chabad of the Rivertowns,” recounted Hurwitz. “I asked if he would bring the Chanukah Village which he had hosted in Irvington for many years, to create a Chanukah City at Ridge Hill. We decided to ask other local Chabad Centers to join us.”
These other partner Chabad Centers included Briarcliff, Bronxville, Pelham and Scarsdale.
Rabbi Silverman described how this event is “persumei nissa” on the most basic level. We lit the menorah together to end the day, when we expected the largest crowd. All of these people coming together and celebrating the miracle. We are sharing the message and miracle of Chanukah, which is about the shine of light and hope.”
This Chanukah celebration brought out the Linder family from New Rochelle. “We had a great day: We climbed inside the army rover, we went into the ambulance, did the dreidel dig, we watched the puppet show and did some ice skating.”
Six-year-old Sammy of New Rochelle, expressed, “I was super excited to come and do the virtual reality exhibit.”
Nine-year-old twins Noah and Samantha from Riverdale stated, “We enjoyed the dreidel dig and the spinning wheel and won prizes. We have enjoyed the music and the public Chanukah festivities.”
Twelve-year-old Jackson of Riverdale noted, “The food was delicious. It was all really festive, and it was just really fun!”
Ari of New Rochelle added, “We enjoy celebrating Chanukah and enjoy celebrating outdoors. We love Chabad and we are so grateful for everything they do.”
Other activities included an outdoor train ride, a magic show, a Chanukah virtual reality experience, temporary glitter tattoos, a Chanukah photo booth, a balloon artist, organic menorah building with raw vegetables, inventor-mentor activities, a 3D dreidel printer and robotics, sculpting portions of a clay Chanukah City model and a doughnut wall. Latkes were served immediately after the menorah lighting. Kosher food was also for sale by a kosher dairy food truck.
Rabbi Sruli Deitsch of Chabad of Bronxville described, “One of the beauties of Chanukah is unity. When we light the candle, the light is just not used for the person that lit the candle, but to share the light with everyone else. The concept of all the communities coming together, and bringing Jewish people together throughout Westchester and all the other cities to Ridge Hill—it is exactly that. It shows the unity of all the Jewish people.”
Just prior to candle lighting, Rabbi Levi Groner of the Chabad of Pelham elaborated, “Tonight, we light one single candle. Why, on the first night, don’t we light all eight candles? Sometimes we look around the world and the darkness seems overwhelming. The menorah teaches us to light up our lives and to light up the world. All it takes is one single candle. Small acts of goodness and kindness will continue to brighten the world ’til the world is fully illuminated like on the eighth day of Chanukah.”
The event concluded with the lighting of the menorah by Thomas Meier, Yonkers commissioner of public works, along with Retired U.S. Army Chaplain Colonel Jacob Goldstein, riding on a Yonkers Fire Department 100-foot aerial ladder above the crowd, and a gelt drop of 3000 chocolate coins. New York State Senator Shelley Mayer also greeted the crowd.
Rabbi Hurwitz summarized, “The message of Chanukah is so strong. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe always says, a little light pushes away so much darkness. So what better way is there of carrying out this message? Joining in unity, we can definitely bring light to the outside world and stand as proud and strong Jews!”
By Judy Berger