‘Menorah Wars’ return with battle of the Hanukkah beacons

Happy Hanukkah from The Brooklyn Paper
Photo by Tom Callan

Oy-vey-izmir, here we go again.

Park Slope and downtown Brooklyn was a bissel verklempt when it kicked off Hanukkah on Tuesday with twin menorah lightings that celebrated an ancient miracle — but also re-ignited one of the fiercest feuds since Nimrod and Abraham. And it all boils down to size — what else?

The simmering “Brooklyn Menorah War” — an annual soap with enough kvetching to give bubbeh a headache — bubbled over on Dec. 20, famously re-pitting a pair of spiritual leaders over bragging rights and the most hotly-contested question of the season: Whose glistening pricket is Brooklyn’s gonzamacher?

One has courted the inky skies for the past 26 years at Grand Army Plaza, compliments of Rabbi Shimon Hecht of Chabad of Park Slope, who proudly calls his menorah “the world’s largest.”

The other — or “Brooklyn’s official menorah” — has glowed in front of the state Supreme Court building near Borough Hall for around 16 years courtesy of Hecht’s nephew, Rabbi Aaron Raskin of Congregation B’nai Avraham of Brooklyn Heights.

To make matters more interesting — just because — Raskin named his menorah after Jacob J. Hecht, a prominent rabbi who just happens to be Shimon Hecht’s father!

Let’s not forget a few mensches who play supporting roles in this drama: Mayor Bloomberg lit the first candle at Uncle Shimon’s gig while Borough President Markowitz performed the honors at Nephew Raskin’s revel — a jolly simkhe attended by state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights) with entertainment by Uncle Moishy, and an after party at Borough Hall.

Both cool illuminations — each featuring knees-ups and latkes — celebrated the Festival of Lights, but the real bolt of enlightenment was the sudden growth spurt the feuding fixtures went through over the last year: Hecht’s piece rose from 22 feet to 32 feet this year, while his nephew’s taper towered to 29 feet from 25 feet. Hmmm.

Both men didn’t return calls for a comment, although in the past they haven’t been shemevdik (“shy” to you goys) about tossing down the gauntlet on these very pages.

“We’re the official menorah,” Raskin’s associate, Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, alerted us a few years back. “We’re the menorah that Marty Markowitz uses in official photos. Perhaps ‘official’ isn’t the right word, but we’re more official than they are.”

At the time, Hecht countered by mumbling that his menorah was here longer.

This holiday season, make sure to gaze equally at both of these awesome beacons of light or you could end up being the butt of that old Jewish joke — the one about a mother who gave her son two sweaters for Hanukkah, and when he proudly wore one on his next visit to her, she inquired, “What’s the matter? You didn’t like the other one?”

Reach reporter Shavana Abruzzo at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2529.