‘Let’s get out there and celebrate!’ First night of Hanukkah marked with car parade, grand menorah lighting
More than 75 cars topped with bright menorahs joined a procession across Chicago, marking the start of eight nights of celebration and bearing witness to the community’s strength, resilience and openness.
Robert Wasserman was one of dozens of people who paraded through Chicago in a menorah-topped car Sunday to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah.
Wasserman, 54, said that though there weren’t too many onlookers out on the streets because of the cold, those who saw the caravan still showed their support any way they could.
“There were a lot of people in the windows, in the buildings hanging out waving, which was sort of neat,” Wasserman said. “It must have been really cool to be able to look down, I would imagine, and just see so many cars.”
The procession of more than 75 cars began at Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois in Rogers Park and traveled through the Loop before arriving at the Illinois Centennial Monument in Logan Square, where Rabbi Yosef Moscowitz lit a grand menorah as dozens who braved the 18-degree temperatures witnessed the ceremonial event.
Moscowitz, executive director of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois, which sponsored the event, said this year’s celebration holds more significance because of a recent uptick in antisemitic incidents. He said it was important to show those with hate in their hearts that the Jewish community can come together.
“When antisemitism is starting to become a little more vocal than we want it to be the answer is let’s do a higher menorah, let’s do more places, let’s be more public, and let’s get out there and celebrate!” Moscowitz said.
The history of Hanukkah traces back more than 2,000 years to the Maccabean Revolt, when Jews rose up to defend the Second Temple in Jerusalem from their Greek oppressors. Amid the revolt, legend has it, one night’s worth of oil was miraculously used to light the temple’s lamp for eight nights.
As Moscowitz lit the menorah attendees tried to warm themselves up with hot cocoa or by dancing. Others snacked on doughnuts and bobbed along to the music of rapper-singer Ari Lesser, who performed several of his songs for the crowd.
“This is my favorite holiday, Hanukkah, really a holiday of inspiration,” Moscowitz said. “Back in the day the whole idea was this light out in public and then we got kind of scared because of persecution and recently we made a comeback.”
Wasserman said it’s important to show that the community is welcoming of everyone during this special time of year for their faith.
“We show joy and peace and we’re including everybody,” Wasserman said. “We don’t turn anybody away that wants to come out and dance with us and have frozen doughnuts. The community in Chicago is a very close-knit community, and we like to go out in the streets and show our pride and have fun, make new friends. This is how we do it.”