Brooklynites light giant menorahs for Hanukkah

The 27-foot menorah on Neptune Ave in Coney Island on the first night of Hanukkah
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

It’s a beloved holiday tradition!

Jewish residents from around the Five Boroughs gathered on Sunday to kick off Hanukkah, which marked the second time the holiday fell during the COVID-19 pandemic — though this year’s festivities took a far more jubilant tone, with revelers cautiously welcoming back a return to normalcy. 

“I’m proud to be here and participate in this moment as we bring our city back together,” said Borough President Eric Adams at a Manhattan ceremony. “We need each other, and no matter how challenging it is, we know New Yorkers are resilient, strong, and we’re people of faith. And I say to all of you and your family, have a happy and safe Hanukkah.”

Adams, the mayor-elect, also paid tribute to the iconic Chabad Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the New York-based religious leader who encouraged an urban tradition of lighting huge menorahs during Hanukkah each year.

“He spread the importance of Hanukkah,” the Beep said. 

Although Manhattan lays claim to the world’s tallest, the borough of Kings had no shortage of giant menorah lightings this year.

The largest ceremony in Brooklyn came at Grand Army Plaza, which is actually the same height as the Central Park menorah, but in 2016 was officially designated as the little brother by a Chabad rabbinical court after decades of rivalry between the two arrays over the title of World’s Largest Menorah.

Both are 32 feet tall, the tallest permissible under Halakha (Jewish law). The Central Park menorah is erected by Chabad of Crown Heights, while Chabad of Park Slope puts up the Grand Army Plaza menorah.

There was no sign of a simmering rivalry five years on as the candles were lit all across Brooklyn; participants bonded over latkes, sufganiyot, music, and dancing as the Festival of Lights got underway.

At Borough Hall, Councilmember-elect Lincoln Restler lit up the huge menorah erected at Cadman Plaza. “May the Festival of Lights shine bright on us all and may our collective perseverance help us care for the most vulnerable during these challenging times and always,” the pol wrote on Twitter. “Happy Hanukkah!”

Chabad’s Coney Island outpost, the Warbasse Jewish Heritage Congregation, put up a 27-foot menorah on Neptune Ave, at a ceremony presided over by Rabbi David Okunov.

“This giant menorah will serve as testimony that the future of Judaism in South Brooklyn will be BRIGHT,” Okunov said.

Councilmember-elect Ari Kagan similarly said that the menorah represented the neighborhood’s unity even as the pandemic continues to rage on.

“Over all of these months of the pandemic, every day is a struggle,” Kagan said. “But everybody is really helping each other. This is a great neighborhood, you’re helping each other, we’re all in this together. Happy Hanukkah.”