Ahavath Sholom's menorah a Lego megabuild

By Ben Tinsley

FORT WORTH — Being asked to create a 16-foot, 3-inch tall Hanukkah Menorah out of 45,000 Legos was a tall order for structural engineer Mike Lavi.
But building the tallest Lego menorah for Congregation Ahavath Sholom — of which Lavi is a member — proved to be an irresistible challenge.
“I was like, ‘Yeah. Let’s do that,’” Mike Lavi said with a laugh. “So I got started on it. … It’s about 16 feet because that’s how tall our ceiling is. If we had a taller ceiling, the menorah would be taller.”
It was the brainchild of CAS Rabbi Andrew Bloom. Rabbi Bloom said this unique idea came about as he and members of his congregation were considering worthwhile projects to undertake.
“I was at home and it popped into my mind,” the rabbi said. “I was thinking, ‘What could we do that is unique and big like Texas but also has a double mitzvah?’”
In a month or so, CAS members are going to take the menorah apart and donate all of the Legos to children’s organizations, Bloom explained.
“So others can enjoy what we take for granted,” the rabbi said.
Incidentally, CAS members said they flirted with the idea of actually submitting the Lego menorah for an official world record. But after they contacted the officials involved they found the process to be cost-prohibitive.
Mike Lavi has been constructing the more intricate parts of the project, such as the top of the menorah, for a while. Before the construction began, Lavi said, he spent time preparing from July to September using his computer and calculating what had to be done to make it a reality.
“I was drawing it,” he explained. “The only issue I saw was how big to make it. I had to make it so the Legos wouldn’t fall over of their own weight. We went over this four or five times. My original design didn’t work at all. I needed to make it wider and not so flimsy.”
He dubbed the process the “Mike Lavi Theory of Lego Design.”
Lavi said has already designed multiple buildings in the Metroplex out of steel and concrete and wood.
“But not Legos,” he said. “I’ve never done anything like this with Legos before.”
On Sunday, as many as 50 young children gathered at four stations at Congregation Ahavath Sholom to help finish remaining tasks — such as putting together the structure for the menorah’s base.
Ethan Levi, 6, Mike Lavi’s cousin, was very focused on pressing together the Legos for just that purpose.
Ethan took time to only briefly answer questions about what he was doing.
“Building,” the preoccupied youngster said.
Later, as the Lego menorah was being completed, the children crowded around as Mike Lavi and others worked diligently to finish its construction. Lavi was on a ladder, securing the top of the menorah with a special mallet.
“That is so cool!” several of the youngsters repeatedly exclaimed.
Mike Lavi’s father, CAS President Ebrahim Lavi, was very upbeat about the project.
“I think it’s going to be awesome and very different from any program we have done in years before,” he said.
The completion of the tall, tall Lego menorah met with rave reviews — even making television news and social media.
On Facebook, Stephanie Corso Zavala praised Mike and Ebrahim Lavi for the dedication and hard work.
“You guys truly brought the community together,” Zavala wrote.
And on point of fact, there actually are two project menorahs: the large one to be activated with L.E.D. lights next week and a much smaller version with candles.
‘They will look similar but not exactly the same,” Mike Lavi explained.
Zavala announced that at 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, members of the synagogue, at 4050 S. Hulen Street, will light the last candle and then enjoy fun, games, and treats for the whole family.
“I told everyone at the building not to post anything to build suspense, but it’s kind of hard to keep a secret when it just ran on the news,” Zavala said. “Please come out Dec. 13! It’s free. You don’t have to be Jewish; you just have to like fun.”

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