By Ben Tinsley
FORT WORTH — There was standing room only Sunday, Dec. 13 as hundreds of people squeezed into the main sanctuary of Congregation Ahavath Sholom to celebrate the last night of Hanukkah.
The main focus of the celebration was recognition of the 16-foot, 3-inch tall Hanukkah menorah congregation members constructed out of 45,000 Legos. Nearby, there was a much tinier version of the menorah small enough to be placed on a table.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price also made an appearance — to much applause.
And as promised, after the last candle on the small menorah was lit, CAS held a reception with fun, games, and treats for all participants.
The spirit of fun was palpable at the ceremony. CAS Rabbi Andrew Bloom happily discussed the publicity generated by the “epic” menorah. He noted that stories about the Lego structure were published in news agencies in Israel, Denmark and throughout the United States.
“This has literally gone viral, thanks to everyone here,” the rabbi said.
In his introductory remarks, the rabbi told congregants the menorah project was more successful than anyone had dared hope.
“When I moved here from New Jersey, they told me everything is bigger in Texas,” Rabbi Bloom said to applause. “Well, I went on to prove that is correct.”
CAS President Ebrahim Lavi took the stage for a bit, welcoming Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, friends, other members of the clergy and Jewish community members in general.
Lavi also gave thanks for the arrival of the 16-foot, 3-inch tall Hanukkah menorah and to Rabbi Bloom for coming up with the idea.
“I would like to thank Rabbi Bloom for his out-of-the-box thinking and to my son (structural engineer) Mike Lavi for having the idea to make it happen,” Ebrahim Lavi said. “Also for the help of Sunday-school students and our young-at-heart congregants.”
Indeed, many of these “young-at-heart” people seemed to be having great fun at the program. Marcy Paul of Fort Worth, for instance, wore special headgear shaped in the form of a menorah she said she acquired in Chicago years ago.
Rabbi Bloom talked about Hanukkah — the one-day supply of oil miraculously lasting eight days. He said he hopes the light of the menorah can act as a beacon of hope in a world filled with hate and indecision.
Rabbi Bloom invited Mayor Price to speak to the audience. Bloom, a member of the Mayor’s Faith Leaders Cabinet, lauded the mayor’s contributions to diversity.
He described her as a “Mensch of the City.”
The mayor in turn welcomed Fort Worth Council Members W. B. “Zim” Zimmerman of FW City Council District 3, Ann Zadeh of FW City Council District 9 and Jungus Jordan of FW District 6 to the program.
Mayor Price reminded the audience that the Mayor’s Week of Compassionate Service is Jan. 16 through Jan. 24. The mayor has issued a call for families, business leaders, faith institutions, nonprofits, neighborhoods, schools and individuals across Tarrant County to volunteer — giving a day, perhaps even an hour, to perform tangible acts of compassion.
“Be watching for the week of compassion as it moves along,” she told the audience. “We appreciate what your congregation does to celebrate.”
Her final words: “Shalom, y’all.”
Rabbi Bloom’s response: “And as they say in Hebrew: ‘Giddy-up.’”
The rabbi then asked a select group of people to either light the candles on the smaller menorah or help turn on the bulbs on the larger one.
At the end of the program, an auction was held to sell the aforementioned smaller menorah. During a period of exactly two-minutes, folks called out bids as Ebrahim Lavi held the role of auctioneer.
The winning bid, $2,800, came from Dr. Myron and Rhonda Krupp.
The children’s choir, under the direction of Cantor Shoshana Abrams Kaikov, sang Hanukkah songs like Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel and Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah as parents and children clapped along in rhythm.
Not to be outdone, the adult choir performed such delightful tunes as Tom Lehrer’s classic Hanukkah in Santa Monica.
At the end of the program, Rabbi Bloom explained to the audience how CAS members are going to take the menorah apart and donate all of the Legos to children’s organizations in a month or so.
A reception followed the program, complete with refreshments and a clown holding balloon animals for the children.