The Orange County community gathered to celebrate Chanukah together at various events hosted by Chabad of Orange County, directed by Rabbi Pesach and Chana Burston. “Chanukah has a universal message,” explained Rabbi Pesach. “It demonstrates light over darkness, freedom over oppression and religious freedom.” It is no wonder, then, that hundreds of Orange County residents participated in the fun and festive events.
1st night, Firetruck Gelt Drop & Menorah Lighting in Monroe – The Weather forecast in Monroe on the 1st night of Chanukah: Foggy, 40 degrees and heavy rains of chocolate coins! A large crowed was welcomed by the Allegro Youth Orchestra, as the community ushered in Chanukah together. Over 2000 chocolate coins dropped from a firetruck. Among the silver coins, 8 golden coins were mixed in. 8 lucky winners received Chanukah packages. The gifts were distributed by the elected officials. Following the Gelt Drop was a festive Menorah lighting – lit by Monroe Town Supervisor Tony Cardone, Monroe Village Mayor Neil Dwyer and Chabad Board Member Siggy Toback. Additional elected officials participated as well. The event also featured latkes, hot cocoa and donuts. The event was made possible thanks to the Monroe Fire and Police Departments. Special thanks to the Allegro Youth Orchestra.
2nd night, Tuxedo Menorah Lighting – On the 2nd night of Chanukah, Chabad hosted a Menorah Lighting at the train station in Tuxedo. First, a menorah lighting was held outdoors. Tuxedo Town Supervisor Mike Rost lit the shamash. “The shamash serves the other candles,” Rabbi Pesach Burston said, “so we have a human shamash – a town official – to light the shamash!” Other elected officials attended as well. Chana spoke of the importance of adding light, one candle at a time. Rabbi Pesach also explained the significance of having government officials at the Menorah lighting. “There was a time when practice of Judaism was outlawed,” he explained. “Government officials and law enforcement would stop these events and even persecute those who participated. How fortunate we are to live in a time and place where not only can we can celebrate religious freedom, but have the support of government!” Following the lighting and Chanukah songs, a reception was held in the Community Room in the iconic train station, with latkes, doughnuts, hot cocoa and Chanukah crafts. Yeshiva student Eli Rimler played Chanukah music on his keyboard.
3rd night, Chester – The 3rd night of Chanukah, December 4, was celebrated during Chabad’s weekly “Kabbalah & Chicken Soup” Torah class on Tuesdays. Freshly made doughnuts by Rabbi and Gabbai, hot latkes and other refreshments were served. After lighting the menorah by Brigitte Glasser and Siggy Toabck, the class delved into the Kabbalah of Oil and Chanukah.
4th night, Chocolate Chanukah in Chester – This year’s theme of Chabad’s annual gala community Chanukah party at Colonial Lanes was ‘Chanukah at the Chocolate Factory.’ The menorah was of a 6-foot chocolate-bar menorah! The well attended party also featured buffet dinner, oompa loompa latke bar, hot cocoa station, Chanukah crafts, chocolate gelt and chocolate dipping station, doughnuts, dreidels, bowling, Hebrew School choir, raffles, and, of course, lots of chocolate. To top it all off, entertainer Adam Realman performed his “electrifying acts and unusual feats.” At the end, children had fun taking the chocolate from the menorah. The Chester event was made possible thanks to John Salerno of Colonial Lanes, Ira & Karen Kanis, Siggy Toback, Hillary Cohen, Henry & Samira Galler, Mitch & Gladys Wenzel, Lee & Michelle Sentell, Gil & Phyllis Goetz, Yisroel & Rikki Zellermaier, Michael & Corbett Hoffman, Lester & Shirley Pleeter, Jay Mittleman of PC Payroll, The Burston Kids, Avremi Leitner and the Chabad Hebrew School students!
5th night, Goshen – Chabad Cares volunteers brought Chanukah cheer to seniors in Goshen. Residents enjoyed a Chanukah concert, led by Duvy Burston and Avremi Leitner, doughnuts, chocolate gelt, driedel games and Chanukah art. Special thanks to all the volunteers who brightened Chanukah for others.
6th night, Chanukah Musical Mommy and Me – It’s never too early to start education. On Friday, the 6th day of Chanukah, Chana Burston led a Chanukah Musical Mommy & Me for toddlers and moms. The program highlight was build-a-stuffed menorah, Chanukah themed circle time with puppets, songs, instruments and movement.
7th Day – Chabad Hebrew School – Students learned and experienced hands-on Chanukah fun. This included reading a Jumbo Chanukah Book, competitive dreidel games, Chanukah balloon challenge, HeadBands, Right-Left games, prizes, homemade doughnuts and Gelt Cookies.
#ShareTheLights Social Media Initiative – Throughout Chanukah, Chabad held a Share-the-Lights initiative on social media. Participates took photos of their Chanukah lights, and posted them using hashtags #ShareTheLights and #ChabadOrangeLights. Each night of Chanukah Chabad of Orange County entered participants into a raffle for special Chanukah prizes. “Chanukah is unique in that its primary mitzvah is observed in public,” Rabbi Pesach explained. “Traditionally, even menorahs lit at home are to be lit in a doorway or window to publicize the miracle. Today, with social media, people have the tools to publicize like never before. So why not use it as a tool to spread light!” It was beautiful to see so many sharing lights together.
“The message of Chanukah does not end when Chanukah does,” explained Chana Burston. “The spirit of Chanukah should last not just for eight nights, but for all days of the year!”