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Traditional Meets Unconventional: The World’s First Ever Chile Menorah Inaugurated in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Jewish tradition fuses with authentic New Mexican flavor in the “chile capital of the world”

Anyone from New Mexico knows about its chilies — the ubiquitous pepper is a symbol of pride in the region. 

Rabbi Berel Levertov of the Santa Fe Chabad Jewish Center wanted a menorah that would bring the community together. What better way than with a familiar icon reflecting the unique local spirit? 

So he commissioned Machi Rimler, 18, a young welder based in Rockland County, New York, to create the masterpiece. 

Inspired to bring Levertov’s distinct vision to life, Rimler embarked on the operation of planning and preparing the menorah at his workshop 2,000 miles across the country. While it required meticulous labor and attention to detail over the course of several weeks, he drew great satisfaction from the process. 

“Creating functional art from raw materials, especially one that would be used for a spiritual purpose, was a fulfilling undertaking for me,” Rimler said. 

Photo Credit: Jim Weber | The New Mexican

The passionate artisan is excited to have his menorah join the thousands of other public menorahs on prominent display around the world.

During setup, the menorah attracted the attention of numerous passersby at the square. “The locals are very excited,” Levertov said. “It resonates with them.” Onlookers expressed their joy at seeing a representation of their home state through this menorah. Many stopped to chat, asking Rimler questions about the process. 

“Getting the chile to be the right shape was challenging at first, but eventually I hit upon the right technique,” he said. 

Figuring out how to transport the ten-foot construction across the country in time for Chanukah was another challenge. Rimler built the menorah in three separable parts to allow for shipping. He packed it on a pallet and delivered it to a trucking company, which made the final voyage to deliver the menorah to its new home.

Levertov reflects on the deeper meaning of the project. “Fusing a traditional menorah from the Beit Hamikdash together with the local culture of the chile is a symbol of putting down roots in Santa Fe — and a sign that Judaism is alive and well thousands of years later. 

Being able to gather in person to celebrate the Festival of Lights also marks a significant turning point in a world still battling the effects of the pandemic. Santa Fe residents and local dignitaries came together for a community celebration to inaugurate the chile menorah on Sunday evening. “A new menorah, the symbol of the triumph of light over dark, of good over evil, will bring an influx of joy, light, and vigor to our beautiful community,” Levertov said.

US Senator Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and US Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM district 3) kindle the Shamash of the Giant red chile menorah
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