Hundreds gather at the Galleria as Chabad of Dallas and PJ Library kick off the Festival of Lights
By Rachel Gross Weinstein
Though many people were finishing their holiday shopping last week, there was another reason to visit the Dallas Galleria — to celebrate the first night of Chanukah with the lighting of the giant menorah. The menorah was a centerpiece at the mall for all eight nights of Chanukah.
On Dec. 20, about 500 people, from youngsters to seniors, gathered at the annual event that is hosted each year by Chabad of Dallas, which also held menorah lightings at Starbucks in Far North Dallas and Northpark Mall. This year, the Chabad had a partner, as the Dallas PJ (Pajama) Library co-hosted the event.
Rabbi Mendel Dubrawsky, head of Chabad of Dallas, led the festivities and said he looks forward to the Galleria lighting each year. “I get to see hundreds of people, both Jewish and not, come together to watch me light the first candle. I love seeing the children and smiling faces; it’s magical,” he explained. “Chanukah has a universal message of light over dark and good over evil, so that’s why it’s so important to have a public lighting.”
In addition to the menorah lighting, the evening included the singing of Chanukah songs and a book reading by the PJ Library. Kim Velevis, a PJ Library supporter, read the book “Hanukkah, O’ Hanukkah” to all of the kids in attendance.
The PJ Library, which is housed in the Center for Jewish Education of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, launched in August. The program provides free Jewish-themed books and music to children age 6 months through 6 years-old and more than 1,000 local children have been registered for the program to date. The program is underwritten by the Mankoff Family Foundation.
“I’m honored to have had PJ Library included in Chabad of Dallas’ annual menorah lighting,” said PJ Library Community Coordinator Rivae Balkin-Kliman. “We are two strong Jewish organizations coming together to create something unique and special for the Dallas community and it’s wonderful for the children to see their heritage celebrated during the holiday season.”
Community leader Andy Schultz and his family attend the menorah lighting each year and he said what he enjoys most about it is that it’s done in a public venue.
“There are always Christmas celebrations, so it’s nice that Chanukah can be included as well,” Schultz said. “It shows the diversity of our community and that we are able to celebrate, while being inclusive of all religions.”
Marcie and Jason Friedman, who have lived in Plano for three years, joined in the celebration for the first time and were amazed at the sheer number of people in attendance. “This brings everyone together in a warm environment,” Jason added. “For a smaller Jewish community like Dallas, it’s amazing to have different menorahs up around the city.”