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Seashells on the Beach

By , SOUTH BEACH, FL

Against a snowy backdrop, the lights of the Menorah seem the perfect way to add warmth and brightness to the long winter nights. But in the Sunshine State of Florida, where temperatures seldom fall short of the 70 degree mark, and sailing and surfing are year-round activities, Chabad puts a uniquely tropical spin on its Chanukah celebration.

Illuminating the night sky each of the eight nights of Chanukah is a seashell menorah designed by artist Roger Abrahamson. For an entire year Abrahamson, also a professional diver and a long time friend and supporter of Rabbi Zev Katz, director of Chabad House on Wheels, dived the seas surrounding Florida fishing for seashells of every shape, color and size. And after several weeks of single-handedly crafting a Menorah out of 10,000 seashells, Abrahamson’s work of art stands 10 feet tall.

Set in a sand dune created by Abrahamson, the Menorah graces the famed Euclid Circle in South Beach, Florida’s favorite party spot, a magnet for the young, hip and heady. With Chanukah only a day away hundreds of passers-by are learning about the Festival of Lights, some for the very first time, and Abrahmson’s goal “to publicize the message of Chanukah and of Chabad,” is fast being realized. The menorah has also attracted the attention of reporters from several local television stations and the Miami Herald.

On Sunday, December 1st, a grand Menorah lighting ceremony is expected to draw close to one thousand people, as Miami’s mayor David Dermer officiates at the kindling of this distinctively Floridian Menorah, followed by a celebration which will feature live musical entertainment as well as the traditional Chanukah fare: latkes and doughnuts.

Some two thousands tourists traipse through this area each week, and while Chabad House on Wheels, a project designed to reach Jewish pedestrians, is not new to the streets of Miami, its seashell Menorah will be a traffic stopper. In the three years since its founding, Chabad House on Wheels has reached Jewish tourists from across the spectrum and the globe. Rabbi Katz keeps up with many of the people he meets, and connects them with Chabad in their respective areas.

What happens with a 10-foot tall Chanukah menorah made of seashells? It’s not the kind of thing you can take apart and rebuild next year. But, says the artist, there is talk about the Menorah becoming part of Miami’s Jewish Museum’s permanent collection. Now if they could only figure out a way to get the menorah through its doors.

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