By Rachel Gross Weinstein
The flames from the menorah in the West Village illuminated Uptown on the second night of Chanukah last week. Hundreds of people, from children to senior citizens, ate latkes, sang songs and danced the night away.
The Intown Chabad hosted the menorah lighting last Thursday, Dec. 2. More than 350 people attended the gathering, which was sponsored by Action Metals, the West Village and Starbucks.
The celebration featured live music by Goga, free drinks from Starbucks and an after-party at the Chabad House. Rabbi Zvi Drizin spoke about the meaning of Chanukah and led everyone in the prayers, and event co-chair, Boris Grinstein, lit the menorah.
“I love the feeling of people of all levels of observance uniting to light the menorah in public,” Drizin said. “It’s powerful and shows that we are proud of who we are. This is a beautiful time of year and to have a big menorah in a public place is amazing.
During the holidays, we are generally surrounded by Christmas, so it’s nice to have this…. Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, represents for Jews a time of warmth, joy, strength and inspiration.”
This is the fourth year Chabad has hosted the menorah lighting in an effort to continue outreach in Uptown. Having the menorah placed in the West Village, a public area that attracts thousands of people, Drizin said, brings more awareness to Chanukah; it is located between Mi Cocina and the Magnolia Theater.
Rachel Edenson Pinn and her husband, Greg, have been co-chairing the event since its inception. She said it’s gratifying to know that more people continue to come each year and enjoy celebrating Chanukah.
“This brings everyone together and lets people who are not Jewish know what Chanukah is,” she said. “It’s a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday. Each year, the event gets bigger and having it in a public place is great for that. It’s wonderful.”
Boris Grinstein has been involved with this event since the beginning as well, and his father Johnny’s company, Action Metals, is always a co-sponsor of it. Grinstein said the menorah lighting ceremony, and its presence in Uptown, makes an impact on the community.
“Other religions have public events like this and it’s important to have something like this for us once a year that unites people,” he said. “It is slowly becoming a tradition in Uptown and it’s awesome that we do this.”
Melodie Balarsky, who attends every year, added that Chanukah is a joyous holiday and being able to have a place to light the menorah, sing and dance is fantastic.
“It’s great to celebrate Chanukah as one big group,” she said. “People often associate Chanukah with being happy. It’s significant for people to celebrate their faith and experience all of the wonderful Jewish holidays.”