The second day of Hanukkah was celebrated Tuesday night with the lighting of the world’s largest menorah and a special message of unity from the public advocate.
The whopping 36-foot tall holiday structure is a Guinness Book of World Records-breaking nine-branched candelabrum currently erected within Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza, just adjacent to Central Park on 59th Street and 5th Avenue.
On Nov. 30 the iconic symbol of the Jewish holiday drew dozens of bundled-up New Yorkers to witness the ceremonial lighting. Excitedly awaiting the big moment, the crowd lifted their phones in order to capture the religious experience while others simply rubbed their hands together in an effort to stay warm.
“Today there are 15,000 Menorahs like this all over the world, 15,000 public Menorahs all over the world and they have lit up the skies with the light of Hanukkah,” Rabbi Shmuel Butman told the crowd from high above them inside a cherry picker.
Joining the rabbi, albeit somewhat cautious of the height, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams used a blow touch to commence the ceremony by igniting the Shamash, the centermost candle. Onlookers gave the elected official a round of applause before dancing to transnational music.
Last year, the organization was forced to be celebrated through social distancing due to COVID-19, but with vaccines now widely available, attendees felt more comfortable to take one another by the arms and letting loose with the Hora dance.
While the affair was important to Public Advocate Williams due to its religious significance, he also hoped he could highlight the issue of anti-Semitism that still plagues the city.
“At this time, in particular, there is a rise in hate crimes, including the rise in Semitism. It’s always important, even more important, to come out and celebrate as the second highest ranking, elected official city,” Williams told amNewYork Metro. “I am hoping we get to a point where we don’t have to keep pushing this message of unity. Sadly we do. I’m hoping at some point it just sinks in. How much more similar we are far outweighs the minor differences. But you know this time of year is a great time we had so many people celebrating so many different things. Hopefully they can help our community at a time or we seem to be drifting apart.”
Williams then joined the dance himself, waving and circling in the Menorah’s glow.