Chabad Lubavitch of Camden and Burlington counties will hold its 29th annual Hanukkah menorah lighting celebrations beginning with a menorah parade and lighting in Cherry Hill on Dec. 18 and concluding with a Chanukah on Ice event in Voorhees on Christmas Eve.
Rabbi Laizer Mangel of the Chabad Lubavitch explained that the tradition of lighting the menorah started long ago, when the Syrian-Greek empire tried to assimilate the Jewish people.
“This is a big empire, the most technologically advanced empire at that time with their warhorses, their war elephants. It was a marvel!” Mangel said. “And obviously, they would conquer whoever they want and squash down any other culture. And a group of Jewish Maccabees stood up and said ‘We’re going to fight back.’
“And it just shows the strength of the power of good in the face of evil, and how just a little beacon of light could brighten a very dark room.”
According to Mangel, when the Jewish people returned to their temple, they had found it desecrated. After much searching, they were able to find one small bottle of oil to ignite the menorah and spread its light. One day’s ration lasted for eight days, until more oil could be made, which is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights.
“And the mitzvah, the message of Hanukkah, is to shine your light – not in private,” Mangel continued. “In fact, one that lights the menorah when there’s no one around at a time too late in the night when everyone’s certain to be sleeping – did not fulfill the mitzvah, did not fulfill the message of Hanukkah.
“We must light the menorah,” he added. “We do it at home in the window, when the children are awake, when friends and families are there. We take it to the next level: in the parking lot on an 18-foot menorah, on top of cars throughout Cherry Hill, in Haddonfield, Moorestown, Collingswood and Medford.”
Here are other free Menorah celebrations this month:
- Dec. 18: A Menorah card parade starting at the Chabad Center at 1925 Kresson Road in Cherry Hill. Guests will line up at 3:15 p.m., depart at 4 and arrive at Barclay Shopping Center at 5. The lighting of an 18-foot Menorah at the Barclay Shopping Center will follow. To register as part of the parade, visit www.thechabadcenter.org/parade. There will also be a Menorah lighting at 4:30 p.m. at the Florence Chabad, at 1816 Mount Holly Road, suite 101, in Burlington.
- Dec. 19: Menorah lighting and Chanukah celebration at the Moorestown Community House, 16 E. Main St., at 6 p.m.
- Dec. 20: Medford Chanukah Village Walk starting at the corner of Main Street and Allen Avenue, Medford, at 7 p.m., with latkes, donuts and refreshments.
- Dec. 21: Haddonfield Menorah lighting at Library Point, 60 N. Haddon Ave. at 6 p.m., with refreshments.
- Dec. 22: Collingswood Menorah lighting at 6 p.m., with refreshments.
All are welcome to attend.
“The donut is a donut fried in oil, and the latke, which is a potato pancake, is also fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of oil,” Mangel explained. “We’re remembering the oil … It’s just from the culture and the food they ate that were fried in oil.”
Mangel also explained that dreidels were used to remember the children who continued to study the Torah during a ban on learning and studying.
“We celebrate the fearlessness of the children who felt the need to continue in their studies and celebrate the Jewish faith, even in the face of Syrian Greek mighty horses,” he added.
Chanukah on Ice will take place at 7 p.m. on the 24th. Attendees can skate to contemporary Jewish music and classic Chanukah songs. Admission is $12 a person at the door – including skate rental, donuts and drinks – or $10 in advance.
To learn more about the upcoming events, visit https://www.thechabadcenter.org/.