The Rise of the Public Art Menorah, 15-Foot-Tall Menorah and Lighting Unveiled at the Ice Rink at the Seaport

The Menorah, the quintessential symbol in the home, of the light and warmth of Chanukah.

But out on the streets of the “Greatest City on Earth,” and in countless cities across the globe, it is the public menorah which many have come to look to, to set the tone and the spirit of the holiday season.

The story of the public menorah stretches back nearly five decades, to Chabad’s first public menorah lightings in Philadelphia, PA and San Francisco, CA in the mid-1970s. Since then, the story of the public menorah has been filled with drama and intrigue, tears and joy, and, quite literally, the modern-day victory of light over darkness.

But one thing other than the public menorah’s comforting light has remained reliably unchanging over its half a century lifespan: its aesthetically-challenged utilitarian design.

Building a large public menorah isn’t as easy as one might think – especially because no matter how big the menorah might be, its design must still comply with the smallest details of Jewish law.

But one Chasidic Rabbi and artist is working to shine new light on the matter.

Over the last seven years, Yitzchok Moully has been creating Chanukah-inspired public art in the New York, New Jersey and Miami areas.

What started out as large canvas paintings soon transformed into life-size wall murals, which, before anyone could say, “Spin the dreidel!,” had morphed into an interactive mural as well. Last year, Moully’s menorah evolved into a real life three-dimensional “human” menorah. On 5th Avenue in Manhattan, outside the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn, and at the American Dream Mall in New Jersey, men, women and children, Jewish and non-Jewish, were invited to step up to the ten foot tall seventeen foot wide Living Lights menorah, each of whose eight enormous lights could only be activated by human touch. And when all eight were lit in unison by friends or family or perfect strangers, a surprise light show was unleashed, celebrating the truth that the collective light of hUmaNITY is far greater than the sum of its parts!

One thing the menorah teaches us is that in matters of light and holiness we must always add and never subtract. This is actually the reason why, instead of starting off the holiday with eight candles and counting down each day until one, we start the first night of Chanukah with one lone light and build up to a blaze of eight.

It’s also why Moully never ceases from taking on new luminous artistic challenges each and every year.

And this year’s “new light” will be a shining public art menorah installation commissioned by The Howard Hughes Corporation for the Seaport, a historic waterfront neighborhood in Lower Manhattan.

The Seaport menorah, fabricated from stainless steel and designed to evoke the image of a sail – in homage to the port’s storied history as a booming maritime trade center – will stand tall and luminous on the Heineken Riverdeck at the north side of Pier 17, overlooking the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge.

The 15-foot-tall menorah will be unveiled at the Seaport on the first night of Chanukah, as part of “Chanukah on Ice”, the annual celebration hosted by Chabad of Wall Street, the Jewish Learning Experience and The Howard Hughes Corporation. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place from 2:30 – 5:00 pm at the Seaport Ice Rink, located on Seaport Square at 89 South Street, New York, NY.

And New Yorkers can look forward to the glow of its peaceful riverfront glow long into the future, as the Seaport menorah will become an annual celebration of Jewish life and light in Lower Manhattan.

It’s never too early to start planning for a mitzvah!

The lighting of the menorah on Chanukah is unique in that it is the one mitzvah in Judaism which must be displayed to the outside public domain. While many rabbis have addressed the ritualistic intricacies involved in the public menorah lightings, Rabbi Moully is focusing on introducing new form and shine to this ancient symbol of religious dedication. His goal is to unveil a new public art menorah each and every year, with four or five new designs already on the drawing board!

Stay tuned for information about next year’s art menorah installation by Moully, planned for London, England.

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