As dusk fell on Sunday evening, thousands of Brooklynites celebrated the first night of Hanukkah, gathering together to light community menorahs from Grand Army Plaza to Coney Island. The celebrations were jubilant — attendees danced and sang with their friends and neighbors as the first candles were lit on the chilly December night.
“It’s the continuation of not only lighting the menorah, but also how do we light each other? How do we infuse the spirit of forgiveness, the spirit of kindness, the spirit of not yelling, but praying?” Mayor Eric Adams said at a Manhattan menorah lighting. “When we light the Menorah tonight, let’s also light something inside ourselves. Let’s look at each other as brothers and sisters. We are here together in this city.”
Adams headed to Manhattan after he kicked off celebrations at Grand Army Plaza, home to Brooklyn’s largest menorah, which has been lifted and lit each Hanukkah since 1985. Attendees watched as Rabbi Shimon Hecht of Chabad of Park Slope and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams rode to the top of the menorah in a 60-foot cherry picker and used a torch to light the first candles.
At the J.J. Byrne Playground in Park Slope, local businessowner Yossi Rapoport said a prayer and addressed the crowd before lighting the candles, drawing a parallel between the oil lasting for eight nights in the original Hanukkah story and the survival of small businesses in a challenging era.
“Who knew that little flask of oil would last, and who knew that businesses would survive?” Rapoport said. “Thank God, thank all of you, thank all our customers for helping us stay afloat. That just occurred to me as a correlation between Hanukkah and small businesses in this day and age.”
Holocaust survivor Helen Haberman lit the first candle of the Coney Island menorah on Neptune Avenue on Sunday evening, accompanied by Rabbi David Okunov of the Chabad-Warbasse Jewish Heritage Congregation.
“Chanukah commemorates the remarkable triumph of light over darkness and freedom over oppression” Okunov said. “When faced with darkness, this menorah serves as a symbol of Light, Unity and Liberty. NYC’s dedication to persevering and celebrating all its citizens as they are; and this year, we’re shining that great symbol ever so bright.”