Oy vey! Brooklyn menorah stripped of ‘world’s largest’ title

Size matters: Rabbis battle for biggest-menorah bragging rights
Photo by Cate Dingley

It is the world’s largest menorah no more-a!

A rabbinical court has forbidden a Park Slope rabbi from promoting the massive menorah that has spread Hanukkah cheer at Grand Army Plaza since 1984 as the world’s largest, decreeing instead that the title belongs to a colossal candelabra on the godless island of Manhattan.

The Chabad-Lubavitch court’s Dec. 1 decision, first reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, ends a years-long feud between Rabbi Shimon Hecht and Crown Heights Rabbi Shmuel Butman — the man behind the competing candleholder in Central Park — but the losing side say they aren’t kvetching about the results.

“We’re going to follow the court’s decision,” said Rabbi Moshe Hecht, Shimon Hecht’s son. “It is what it is.”

Both Hecht’s and Butman’s menorahs sit on a 32-foot base — the maximum size permitted under Jewish law — but the Big Apple version boasts significantly more girth than Brooklyn’s and netted the Guinness World Record for the title in 2006.

“This is wider and weighs more. There’s no comparison,” Butman told this paper in 2014.

But Hecht has long maintained that his is the tallest because it sports a central candle — or shamash — that is six inches taller than his counterpart’s.

To promote his claim, Hecht created a website called www.worldslargestmenorah.com, which remains online despite the court’s decision.

Still the largest in our hearts: Revelers dance around the Grand Army Plaza menorah in the halcyon days of Hanukkah 2015, when it was still considered the world’s largest.
Photo by Louise Wateridge

But the Rabbinical court — essentially an arbitration process, where both parties agree to abide by the ruling — was more interested in the issue of branding than physical size, and how Hecht’s claim to have the world’s largest menorah could negatively affected Butman’s, which predated the Kings County one by several years, according to a rabbi familiar with the case.

“The case was about the branding, not the reality of what’s larger or shorter,” said the rabbi, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

As a result of the court’s decision, Hecht will have to re-brand his menorah, although his main focus — as ever — will be promoting the lighting event at Grand Army Plaza, his son said.

“The menorah is the same menorah,” Moshe Hecht said. “We’re really just focused on making this Hanukkah the greatest ever.”

The Manhattan menorah isn’t Hecht’s only rival — his own nephew, Rabbi Aaron Raskin of Congregation B’nai Avraham of Brooklyn Heights, also runs a giant public menorah lighting during Hanukkah, which Raskin has previously declared to be the borough’s “official” one.

But the Borough of Kings’ preponderance of hulking Hanukkah lamps means it still enjoys bragging rights for boasting the most mega-menorahs, if not the official largest, according to one local mensch.

“We’ve got two huge menorahs and they’ve got one. Enough said,” said former Borough President Marty Markowitz.

The not-largest menorah will be lit for the first night of Hanukkah with a kickoff concert and hot latkes at Grand Army Plaza (between Plaza Street West and Plaza Street East in Prospect Heights), Dec. 24 at 7 pm. Free. For subsequent lighting times, see www.worldslargestmenorah.com.

Whatever: The so-called world’s largest menorah in Manhattan.
Associated Press / PRNewsFoto/ Jewish News Agency

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixs[email protected]glocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.