By Deb Silverthorn
Denise and Stew Levine and their children take the lyrics “Chanukah Oh Chanukah, come light the menorah” very personally. The family created its own menorah – and light up it does.
The family’s menorah, which they built, stands tall and unique against its Plano neighborhood’s other holiday-lit homes. After lighting up the Levines’ yard this Saturday, the traveling menorah will find its way to the yards of the Feldman, Kam, Korenman, Rubenstein, Segal, Toppel and Zakon families as the holiday progresses.
“From Thanksgiving through New Years as you drive through the neighborhoods you can’t help but see all the lights and want to be a part of the beauty,” said Denise Levine, a San Antonio native who has brought a whole new Chanukah to Castle Creek Lane. “As a kid, I asked my parents, like lots of Jewish kids do, how come we couldn’t have any lights on our house. My dad created a Jewish star with lights on it, and we were so excited.”
Last year, when Denise’s children, Naomi, 9, and Jeremy, 6, started asking the same questions, she felt it time to spring into action. “If you can visualize it, it can be done,” said Denise, who works as an interior designer. With some design help from her children, close to $400 in expenses for PVC pipes, lights and wiring and about 20 hours of construction time, the Levine family front yard shines bright — bright blue, silver and white.
“It’s a small price to pay for something so special, and something that will last from year to year,” she said.
After the Levines invited friends and relatives to light the menorah on the first night of Chanukah, Denise was depressed when she realized the family would be out of town most of the holiday and her special menorah would sit alone in the garage.
“I planned then that this year, the menorah would travel to friends and family after the first night; that way so many more people would get to enjoy it,” said Levine, who also has the star her father made. “Everyone I asked was really excited. It’s a great way to share our religion without compromising ourselves.”
She’s right about the excitement.
“My family is so excited to get to share the menorah,” said Wendy Korenman, a cousin of the Levines who will have the menorah in her yard for the seventh night of the holiday. “Denise has a heart of gold, and it’s great that she’s allowing so many families to be a part of this.
“I grew up in Florida, where there were always holiday season yacht parades and my uncle used to put blue and white lights on his boat. I’m glad this menorah will give my kids a chance to light up our yard like many of the neighbors but with representation of our holiday.”
The menorah will travel to families who fill the Jewish observance spectrum — friends from the Levines’ synagogue, Anshai Torah, and from the children’s school, Centennial Elementary. “We have friends who are Orthodox, Conservative and Reform who will all be lighting the menorah, and I like that it doesn’t matter how observant each person is — this is a holiday and everyone’s home will be lit with something we loved making,” Levine said.
“To be able to take an idea and build it to what Denise has, is incredible,” said Stefanie Toppel, who will host the menorah on the second night of Chanukah. “Our kids, like so many, notice the disparity in how holidays are exhibited and, other than regular inside menorahs, and interior decorations, there’s really not a lot of Chanukah-related items in the stores.”
“We’re so happy to get to light the menorah this year in a new way,” she added. “Denise and her family really are sharing the holiday of lights — with these lights made of love.”