When Ace Screen Printing owner Adam Szyfman, of Glassboro, New Jersey, decided to erect his own eighteen by sixteen foot menorah in front of his store opposite the Winterland Outdoor Ice Rink, it came as a surprise to the local Chabad representatives.
Szyfman, an alumnus of Rowan University, “told me that the town put up a holiday display across the street in the new ice skating rink, and he didn’t want the Jewish community to be left out,” said Rabbi Hersh Loschak, Chabad representatives on campus at Rowan.
It is now 41 years since the first Chanukah menorah was put up in the public sphere by Chabad-Lubavitch. More recently, local businesses have begun to put up their own menorahs outside their storefronts.
“When we started our own line of menorahs for Chabad centers 35 years ago, there was little recognition of Chanukah,” said Rabbi Baruch Klar of Lubavitch Center Fine Judaica. Klar manufactures an array of indoor and outdoor menorahs. “Today I receive calls from malls, banks, senior centers, office buildings and private people who want one standing outside their home.”
From a handful of menorahs in the 1980s, his business, one among several manufacturers of large scale menorahs, now takes orders for some 900 of these eight-branched candelabras a year. The outdoor menorahs featured on his site, menorah.net, are available in two sizes: nine or twelve feet tall. The menorah comes in a bag with wheels and is easy to take apart and store away.
Rabbi Yisroel Shmotkin, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Wisconsin remembers when Chanukah meant very little to Milwaukee’s Jewish community. “Today Chanukah is a part of the fabric of the city and the programming of the local Jewish organizations.”
This year, menorahs will be in locations across the city, and not just in public parks. “Local banks, private office buildings, museums, malls and other locations have menorahs,” said Shmotkin. Every year Chabad of Milwaukee works to add at least one new location to the list of places featuring a public menorah. This year the local Barnes and Noble will have one.
Szyfman made his menorah out of PVC pipes, and spray painted it gold. He sees the menorah as an extension of the Loschaks’ efforts. “If Rabbi Loschak wouldn’t have been in this town, I wouldn’t have been doing something this big. This goes hand in hand with what he is doing.”
Many are expected to attend the town’s grand Menorah lighting on the first night of Chanukah on Tuesday, December 16th, a joint project of Chabad of Gloucester County and Chabad at Rowan University.
Rabbi Avrohom Richler, co-director of Chabad of Gloucester County, said this is a fulfillment of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s, vision. “The Rebbe wanted us to inspire others to spread the light of Judaism. These are the moments we dreamed about when we started Chabad in South Jersey.”
Szyfman said he is hopeful that this menorah will serve as a reminder to local students that “just because they are in college does not mean that they should lose their faith.”