Socially distanced New Yorkers celebrated the first night of Hanukkah with the lighting of the world’s largest menorah on Dec. 10 at Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza.
Dozens of individuals donned masks and bundled up in winter coats before flocking to 59th Street and 5th Avenue to see the Guinness Book of World Records-breaking menorah.
Gazing up at the 36-foot foot tall monument, onlookers marveled at the gargantuan structure decked out with a new feature. This year, the menorah was entirely illuminated with dazzling white lights, prompting a round of applause the instant it flashed to life just after sundown.
This technological addition to the annual observance is intended to symbolize hope and a better tomorrow for all of those who are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The menorah stands as a symbol of light, as a symbol of democracy, of freedom for all human beings. But it has an added dimension this year, that’s why there are so many lights around the menorah,” Rabbi Shmuel Butman told amNewYork Metro. “It’s to light up the world from the darkness of the situation of which we are in and to remember all of the people that we lost. This is to cheer up everyone and to deliver a message: although the past was not the best, the future will be very good.”
As excited attendees continued to pour into Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza, boxes of mini-menorahs were handed out as others danced to live music. At 5:30 p.m., the traditional lighting event commenced with Rabbi Butman and real estate tycoon Rotem Rosen climbing aboard a power lift where they were raised to the top of the Jewish faith symbol.
The pair ignited the first candles — starting with what is known as the Shamash — using a blow torch to much adulation from spectators below.
The brief festivities were watched over by the keen eyes of armed NYPD counter-terrorism officers, who remained on scene to ensure the safety of all attending the public space.
The socially distant affair was not only a symbol of the joyous season, but also an attempt to regain a semblance of normalcy during these unprecedented times.
The event was also live-streamed, affording all the ability to be a part of the religious holiday from the comfort of their homes.
More lightings are scheduled to continue each evening until Hanukkah’s conclusion on Dec. 18..