Each year as the fanfare of Christmas takes hold on the East End, Chanukah celebrations have typically been a bit more subdued. Last year, to the delight of many, that began to change in East Hampton when Chabad Lubavitch of the Hamptons and the Jewish Center of the Hamptons (with Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman) held the first-ever public menorah lighting in Herrick Park. This year, on December 8, the positive message of Chanukah is getting an even bigger boost with “Menorahcade,” the Chabad’s new parade of lights leading up to the second annual public menorah lighting.
This parade of 15–30 cars topped with giant electrically lit menorahs will travel from Chabad Lubavitch on 13 Woods Lane in East Hampton to Herrick Park for the public lighting in the heart of the village. It’s unlike anything seen on the East End in Chanukahs past, but “Menorahcade” is not an entirely new idea. A festive parade of the same name has been a regular tradition for more than a decade in the Detroit, Michigan suburbs.
In Detroit, the 12-year-old parade has grown to dozens of cars and more than 150 participants who drive around towns like Oak Park, West Bloomfield, Southfield and Royal Oak in cars adorned with huge silver, gold-plated and wooden menorahs, and even speakers blasting Jewish music, on the third day of the eight-day Chanukah celebration.
Chabad Lubavitch has held menorah parades all over the country and the world, though not all use the name “Menorahcade.” Sydney, Australia had a very successful Menorahcade with more than 100 cars; Crown Heights, Brooklyn has one of the largest menorah parades in the world; and others have been held in Miami, Pittsburgh, New Jersey and North Carolina. Hamptons Chabad Program Director Goldie Baumgarten said the first public menorahs in America were introduced in 1974 and three years later, Brooklyn had the first recorded “car menorah parade.”
Rabbi Levi Dubov, who started Central New Jersey’s first menorah parade, said Menorahcade is a “modern twist on an ancient custom” that is exactly in line with the message at the heart of the holiday. Now in the Detroit area, where the term “Menorahcade” appears to originate, Dubov explained the story of Chanukah, which celebrates how a small, inexperienced army of Jews defeated Antiochus IV’s powerful Greek army that tried to oppress, change and even kill them. When these Jews, led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his son Judah Maccabee, returned to their temple in Jerusalem, they found it desecrated. In order to restore it, they needed to light the candelabrum (menorah), but they could not find enough blessed pure olive oil for it to burn day and night as required. They had just enough oil for one day, but it burned miraculously for eight whole days, allowing the men time to get more oil. The eight-day Chanukah festival was created to celebrate that miracle.
“It’s a message for all mankind,” Dubov said, explaining that Chanukah and the menorah are about the small forces of good overcoming and defeating powerful evil. “The world today is a very dark and bad place,” he said, adding later, “The message of light should be much louder than evil.”
Traditionally, the menorah is supposed to be displayed by a door or window so others can see it, to publicize the miracle, Baumgarten acknowledged. So, Menorahcade is simply taking that concept to a higher level, broadening the scope, for the modern audience. “Get the message out there!” she said.
Chabad Lubavitch is a philosophy and Jewish educational outreach program founded in the late 18th century by Rabbi Schneur Zalman.
Chabad Lubavitch of the Hamptons is dedicated to providing every Jew an open door environment for strengthening and enhancing Jewish family life. Chabad serves individuals and families looking for an anchor and non-judgmental, accepting, personalized Jewish experience. In short, Chabad offers “Judaism with a Smile,” and a home away from home for everyone who walks through its doors. Led by Rabbi Leibel Baumgarten, they offer a wide variety of local programs and services.
Menorahcade begins at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 at 13 Woods Lane, East Hampton. The parade arrives for menorah lighting in Herrick Park at 7 p.m. 631-329-5800, www.chabadofthehamptons.com