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As the Last Day of Chanukah Nears, Lights Grow More Intense

By , Lubavitch Headquarters

Cautiously conservative estimates put the number of Chabad’s Chanukah events and menorahs worldwide at 2,600. This number, based on events listed on Chabad websites and through random phone calls to Chabad representatives, is a vast undercounting. Factor in thousands of menorah-topped Chabad cars that whizzed by on city streets and the nightly lightings at Chabad’s 4,000 outposts worldwide, and the menorah count climbs higher than the calories in deep-fried latkes slathered with sour cream.

As Chabad representatives added nearly 150 to their number this year, this Chanukah marked many first public menorah lightings. Breathlessly preparing for Chabad of West North Carolina’s very first Chanukah Live! event, Chana Susskind, a new Chabad representative, was pleased to report that the City of Asheville Parks and Recreation Department co-sponsored the event at the Montford Community Center. Arriving just two weeks ago in Chico, CA, Rabbi Mendy and Chana Rochel Zwiebel landed a plum location for their very first large-scale program: the newly refurbished downtown city plaza. “Everyone’s very excited and talking about our event,” said Mrs. Zwiebel. Local newspapers and TV coverage of the nine-foot menorah are introducing Chabad of Chico to the community on a grand scale.

Globetrotters could have taken in more than the average dreidel-and-lights show, as Chabad’s special event planners turned up the heat with extra Chanukah creativity. Chainsaws ripped into logs to carve the menorah at Chabad of Memphis, TN. Can-orahs were popular ways for Chabad centers in S. Barbara, CA, and Staten Island, NY, to celebrate the holiday and collect food for the hungry. Hawaii’s Chabad centers hit a triple play with Governor Linda Lingle kindling one menorah, a 10-foot balloon menorah, and a separate menorah lighting at the Hilo volcano. Fireworks added extra light with much pizzaz at Chabad of Kharkov, Ukraine’s celebration as well as the one in Riga, Latvia. 

Impressive as the numbers and nature of Chabad's Chanukah programs are, the organization also invests its resources to reach oft-forgotten members of the Jewish family: soldiers, prisoners, college students at out-of-the-way universities, and seniors.

Cloaked in desert camouflage, serving in the heart of danger and treachery and far away from the comforts of home, Jewish soldiers at Camp Liberty, Camp Victory, LSA Anaconda in Iraq received Chanukah packages with menorahs, dreidels and holiday information from the Aleph Institute, a Chabad organization that addresses the pressing religious, educational and advocacy needs of individuals in institutional environments.

Requests and thanks to Aleph Institute poured in from Jewish soldiers and chaplains of all faiths stationed in United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Philippines, United Kindom, Japan, North Carolina, Colorado, Texas and other locations around the world. Major Craig D. Wertheim who is serving in Iraq asked Aleph to send Chanukah gifts with a card signed “Love, Dad” to his two children. “Thank you so much for this program,” wrote Major Wertheim. “You will have made my children happier during this deployment.”  Over 1,600 Jewish inmates in prisons from Forrest City, AR, to Waupun, WI, were remembered this Chanukah when Aleph Institute sent them packages as well.

When Chabad on Campus International Foundation added an e-form to their website so Jewish college students at universities not yet served by an on-campus Chabad rabbi could receive Chanukah materials, they expected to give out about 200 Chanukah kits, a huge underestimate. Word of the offer dominoed via student-to-student messages on the Facebook web network, and JTA news organization picked up on the story. “It took off within two days, and it spread like wild fire,” said National Chabad on Campus Director Rabbi Moshe Chaim Dubrowsky. With requests for menorahs, candles and holiday guides topping 1,000, Aleph Institute who provided the kits exhausted their pre-prepared stock. Chabad on Campus workers scoured Judaica emporiums for kit components. Students in Argentina and Russia, who lived too far for the New York based Campus Foundation to reach on time had their requests referred to local Chabad rabbis.

Jewish residents of senior citizen homes received attention at the “Senioren Chanukah Party” in Offenbach am Main, Germany. When Rabbi Leibel Stolik of the new Chabad of South Palm Beach, Florida, entered an “independent living” home for seniors, he brought along Chanukah spirit and son Mendel, 5, and daughter Rivky, 3. Belting out “Oh Chanukah,” the children brought rousing applause from the residents, and some pressed Chanukah gelt – nickels and quarters – into their little hands. “Some of the seniors told me how they remember how they lit the candles when they were children. They were touched. We brought back sweet memories,” said Rabbi Stolik.


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