Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann is not one to shy away from a challenge.
And for the Jewish community in Columbus, Ohio, he is willing to do almost anything—even jumping out of a perfectly good airplane with a Maccabee battle cry on his lips.
Each year, Chabad of Columbus, Ohio, which Rabbi Kaltmann directs with his wife Esther, kicks off the festival of Chanukah—which begins this year Thursday evening, Dec. 7 and concludes Friday evening, Dec. 15—with a huge celebration of Jewish pride. Dubbed “Maccabee Landing,” it’s a thrilling way for Columbus’s Jewish kids and their families to get into the Chanukah spirit.
Every year, Rabbi Kaltmann comes up with more and more elaborate theatrics for the Maccabee Landing. Clad in a Judah Maccabee costume, Kaltmann is inserted by helicopter or skydives into the celebration. Then the fun begins. This year, a candy cannon will blast thousands of edible dreidels onto a field and a helicopter will drop Chanukah candy before kids will excitedly run out and collect them.
Kaltmann said that it’s all worth it to bring the spirit of Chanukah and Jewish pride to the community. “Jumping out of a helicopter, airplane, whatever it takes!”
As we enter Chanukah with an ongoing war in Israel and more than 100 hostages remaining in captivity in Gaza, celebrations of Jewish pride and solidarity are more crucial than ever. “Our flame will never be extinguished,” Chabad of Columbus stated as they invited the community to the event. “This Chanukah, celebrate with more light, love, and Jewish pride in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel.”
A Critically Needed Boost of Judaism on Campus
This theme of Jewish pride, unity and solidarity permeates the thousands of Chanukah celebrations hosted by Chabad that will take place around the world. On college campuses, where Jewish students have endured months of hateful words and actions, Chabad centers are pushing back with more light than ever.
In Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Yard will be illuminated with the lights of a giant menorah as a lineup of professors and other faculty will join Chabad to light the menorah each evening of the holiday.
At SUNY Oneonta, in New York, Chabad will host multiple lightings in public places across campus, featuring Chanukah treats, music and giveaways. “We were genuinely touched as to how many students and locals, Jews and non-Jews reached out in concern having not seen advertisements for our public Menorah lightings and being worried that we had canceled them due to the rise in Antisemitism,” they recently posted. “Fear not because we are ABSOLUTELY having public Menorah lightings this year.”
“With the increasing darkness we need to double and triple down on adding light!!!”
At California State University in Chico, California, the menorah will be lit with University President Stephen Perez. “What better way to start Chanukah than with some rocking Jewish pride on Campus!” said Chana Zwiebel, who directs the Chabad Jewish Center of Chico with her husband, Rabbi Mendy.
At the University of Pennsylvania, where Chabad has been actively boosting Jewish pride on the beleaguered campus, a giant menorah will be lit outside the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Latkes, donuts and menorah kits were distributed on campus in advance of Chanukah, and students proudly displayed menorah decorations on dorm windows.
Leaning Into Jewish Pride
Communities throughout the world are seeing unprecedented events planned for Chanukah, all in a display of the Jewish People’s steadfastness and courage. In St. Louis, Missouri, a gigantic 29-foot-tall menorah—one of the largest in the world—will illuminate the Gateway Arch courtesy of Chabad of Greater S. Louis, led by Rabbi Yosef and Shiffy Landa.
On the Caribbean island of Curaçao, Rabbi Refoel and Chani Silver will host a Chanukah cruise and grand menorah lighting for the island’s Jewish community, and they will also organize a public menorah lighting on the neighboring island of Bonaire.
In Medford, New Jersey, Chabad will put on the Chanukah Village Walk, as Main Street will be dotted with Chanukah crafts, shows and activities. Participants will enjoy Chanukah gifts from local businesses; build Lego dreidels and make shamash candles out of wax; enjoy latkes, donuts and hot cider at the Chabad House; hop aboard the “Maccabee Express” train; and finally participate in a giant menorah lighting.
Hundreds of thousands will witness displays of Jewish pride and light at stadiums across the U.S., from Philadelphia to L.A. to Miami. In Las Vegas, Nevada, more than 50 Chanukah celebrations will take place throughout the holiday, but the biggest crowds will be at Allegiant Stadium, where the menorah will be lit with the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders; and at T-Mobile Arena, where families will celebrate Chanukah with the Golden Knights of the National Hockey League.
“Chanukah in general, but in particular, this year, is critical and so important for the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Levi Harlig, who directs Chabad of Las Vegas Boulevard and the Friendship Circle of Las Vegas with his wife Nechama. “To publicly display our Jewish pride and the symbolism of the menorah—the victory of good over evil and light over darkness.”
As millions tune in to Monday Night Football, Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium will host Jewish Heritage Night, including a pre-game menorah lighting, Jewish performers, and plenty of kosher food. And in PNC Arena, Jewish light shone bright as the crowd of more than 20,000 Carolina Hurricanes fans saw a 12-foot menorah made out of hockey sticks, topped with nine goal lights to provide a unique hockey-style touch to the celebration of Jewish life.
Chanukah will hit the road in cities around the world, as car menorah parades will snake through the main thoroughfares of many cities and towns. In Chesterfield, Missouri, the parade will include the “Largest Spinning Dreidel,” as a cement mixer painted with the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei, and shin will lead the way.
And in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, they’ll take it to the next level as there will be a car menorah parade-and a Chabad boat in the city’s annual holiday parade—and this year the boat is dedicated in solidarity with Israel, and in prayer for a Chanukah of peace, light and Jewish pride throughout the world..
Bringing Chanukah Light to Israel Amid War
As the war in Israel continues after Hamas’s horrific October 7 attack, Chabad will bring the light of Chanukah to communities around the country, as well as to the soldiers serving on the front lines. Public menorahs are ubiquitous in Israel, as hundreds of them adorn malls, main thoroughfares, and central plazas around the country.
Thousands of sufganiyot—jelly donuts that are an Israeli favorite Chanukah treat—will be distributed to IDF soldiers, along with menorah kits and other Chanukah essentials, enabling them to pause for a few moments and celebrate amid the ongoing war.
Chabad of Montana is partnering with Yeshivas Tzeirei Hashluchim in Tzfat, Israel, to bring Chanukah celebrations to the soldiers protecting Israel’s northern border. Barbecues, concerts, and of course giant menorah lightings will bring joy and Jewish spirit to remote outposts and bases.
Chanukah joy will be brought by volunteers with Chabad’s humanitarian branch to hospital patients, families who are displaced by the war from their homes near Gaza or the north of Israel, and to the families of the more than 100 hostages who remain in Hamas captivity. And as the Jewish People celebrate the miracles that happened, “in those days, at this time,” we will be praying for a great miracle to once again happen in Israel.