Chabad of the Valley’s “Chanukah at CityWalk” once again surpassed expectations despite California’s uncharacteristic bout of cold weather, as families came out in large numbers and flocked to the plaza at Universal Studios CityWalk for the annual event, which for many has become the highlight of the eight day Chanukah Holiday.
A night of Jewish entertainment was featured on the prominent CityWalk stage that often plays host to some of the biggest names in the secular music world. The Mendel Simons Band kicked off the evening with a live musical Havdala ceremony followed by the dynamic Jewish rock group Pardes Rock.
Rabbi Mayer Greene, marking his 15th year as the Master of Ceremonies began the formal part of the evening, introducing Chabad of Studio City’s, Rabbi Yossi Baitelman, whose foresight and vision conceived bringing such an event into the heart of the Universal Studios. Rabbi Baitelman thanked the Chabad of the Valley team for carrying out this vision. Chanukah at CityWalk is produced by Jonathan Herzog and Rabbi Mayer Greene, along with the event’s behind the scenes technical director, Rabbi Yochanan Baitelman and Rabbi Yanky Kahn, the media liaison.
Chabad of the Valley’s Associate Director, Rabbi Mordechai Einbinder, addressed participants and then introduced a video tribute in memory of his longtime colleague and friend Rabbi Joshua B. Gordon, OBM. The tribute was centered on a key directive which had been conveyed to Rabbi Gordon by the Lubavitcher Rebbe some forty-four years ago when he and Rebbetzin Gordon moved out to the S. Fernando Valley in California to establish Chabad of the Valley, now home to some twenty-six Chabad centers and changing the spiritual landscape of one of the largest Jewish populaces in the world. This directive was the catalyst for a recently released song by Rabbi Gordon’s nephew, Jewish music sensation Benny Friedman. Friedman’s cousin 8th Day’s Shmuel Marcus wrote the lyrics to the hit song entitled “Reb Yehoshua Omer” and the crowd was visibly moved when Marcus and his brother Bentzi appeared on stage to perform the song live and complete the tribute.
At 9pm, the first light of Chanukah was kindled on the 15ft Menorah situated in the middle of the CityWalk plaza as Mr. Daniel Aharonoff, a dear friend and supporter of Chabad and Rabbi Gordon ob’m was called upon to light the Menorah as Chabad of Encino’s Rabbi Ari Herzog led everyone in the reciting of the brochos.
Following the lighting ceremony, 8th Day took center stage and in a dynamic exhibition of why they continue to top the Jewish music world charts, they brought CityWalk to life as they performed one dynamic hit after another, finishing the night with everyone joining them in their hit song Celebrate.
Organizers thanked the dedicated staff of Universal for their tremendous efforts, particularly during the holiday season to make everything possible and also acknowledged Chabad of Tarzana’s Yochonon Gordon and Chabad of North Hollywood’s Rabbi Nachman Abend, for their efforts in arranging logistics and Chabad’s giant Menorah to be on site for the occasion; and also Shaya Greene, who coordinated the video booth for the giant stadium-sized screen that was a focal point all evening.
Chanukah at CityWalk was once again sponsored by an anonymous donor and in part by corporate sponsorship including: KRLA 870, Albertsons/Vons/Pavilions, Milano Collection Premium Wigs, Cambridge Farms/Glatt Mart, Kosher Lux, AAA Rents & Events, Providence, Altria Senior Living, A Coin Exchange, Law Offices of Bradley Wallace, Vahdat & Assoc. and Nick Trading International.
In a first for Chanukah at CityWalk, the event will be broadcast nationally during Chanukah on the cable television network Jewish Life Television – JLTV.