NEW YORK — Thursday is the first night of Hanukkah, and it comes during a difficult time for Jewish people, amid the Israel-Hamas war and a rise in antisemitism.
With increased incidents of Jewish hate this year, some families have decided to keep their celebrations private, but some members of the community came together to shine light on the darkness by lighting what’s considered the world’s largest menorah.
It is so tall — more than 30 feet high — the rabbi needed a lift to light the first candle.
Chabad puts the menorah up every year and says Guinness World Records lists it as the largest.
Years ago, it was designed by an Israeli artist, inspired by a hand drawing of the original menorah in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.
The Holy Temple is the centerpiece of the Hanukkah story. More than 2,000 years ago, the temple was under siege and Jews were being forced to worship Greek gods. The Jewish people fought back and won.
To rededicate the temple, they needed oil to light the menorah. They could only find enough to keep the flames burning for one night, but miraculously, it lasted for eight days.
It was a bittersweet moment as Thursday marks two months since the Israel-Hamas war began.
“Hanukkah is a reminder of the strength and resiliency and the ability to find light through darkness, and if ever in our history in New York we have needed to find light after darkness, it is right now. But what people are having to deal with and endure is unspeakable, and it must stop. But I know that we’ll rise together, and we will not be intimidated into silence, will not be threatened into submission, and we will rise up and prevail,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
It’s one of many on display in cities and towns worldwide. Many years ago, the Rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch encouraged Jews to have a more public display of Hanukkah, to spread the holiday’s message of light and hope.
This year, Chabad has more than 15,000 public menorahs in more than 100 countries, including at the White House and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
There will be a public lighting at the menorah in Manhattan every night. Most nights, it will take place at 5:30 p.m., but it will be held earlier Friday due to Shabbat.
The mayor will light the menorah Monday.
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