A pandemic Hanukkah celebration: Port Washington Jewish Community Hanukkah drive-in to bring message of light and hope

The Island Now

Amid the ongoing pandemic, Chabad of Long Island recognizes the crucial importance of bringing Hanukkah’s message of light and hope to Long Island’s’s Jewish community amid a dark winter.

Among the 35 creative COVID-adapted events taking place throughout the Island, Chabad of Port Washington will be hosting a very unique Drive-in Menorah Lighting and Concert on Thursday, Dec. 10 at 5:00 p.m. at North Hempstead Beach Park, featuring a virtual concert with the 8th Day Band and a menorah lighting attended by local dignitaries.

Attendees will receive pre-packaged Hanukkah treats and menorah kits. The event, which will be emceed by legendary sportscaster Len Berman, will be displayed on a giant 20-foot LED screen.

The drive-in concert and menorah lighting is one of dozens of events taking place across Long Island sponsored by the 38 branches of Chabad of Long Island, with the recognition of the crucial need for a message of hope during what for many is a very difficult time. And local interest has been widespread, with well over 300 reservations thus far.

Chabad of Long Island will also distribute menorahs, candles, and Hanukkah-at-home kits to those celebrating at home, and are also offering “pop-up Chanukah” celebrations which will see menorah-topped pickup trucks park outside of homes, bringing Hanukkah joy to those isolating during the pandemic.

“The menorah serves as a symbol of light and hope for us today amidst the darkness of the pandemic, as it did for generations before us,” said Rabbi Tuvia Teldon, who directs Chabad of Long Island. “The flames of the menorah shine out into the night, reminding us that even when confronted with much darkness, a tiny light can dispel it all. Another act of goodness and kindness, another act of light, can make all the difference.”

This year, the holiday has added significance as so many will be isolated at home on Hanukkah amid these difficult times. As the Rebbe — Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory — would often teach, the menorah is a reminder that light can be brought to the darkest of times, and uniquely, at the core of the holiday’s observance is sharing the light with others who may not be experiencing it.

Indeed, the coronavirus has hit New York hard with so many tragic victims of the pandemic. And the virus has hurt so many on Long Island—not only those infected but also those who have suffered economic and emotional devastation.

Throughout the pandemic, Chabad of Long Island has been on the front lines of providing social, humanitarian and spiritual support to residents on the island. The covid-safe Hanukkah events are the latest of many innovative programs created in response to these unique times by Chabad of Long Island, including Passover Seders-to-go, Rosh Hashanah shofar on street corners, and Shabbat-in-a-box deliveries.

The menorah lighting is part of the worldwide Hanukkah campaign launched by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, in 1973. The campaign highlights and encourages the central theme of the holiday—publicizing the story of the Hanukkah miracle and the victory of light over darkness, a message of hope greatly needed today. In the decades since, the Rebbe’s Hanukkah campaign has forever altered the American awareness and practice of the festival, returning what some have mistakenly dismissed as a minor holiday to its roots as a public proclamation of the triumph of freedom over oppression and a mainstay of Jewish cultural and religious life.

During the pandemic, Chabad emissaries have a heightened sense of urgency to share the message, spirit and hope of Hanukkah. The Chabad-Lubavitch movement worldwide is preparing the largest Hanukkah campaign in history.

This year’s campaign will see Chabad-Lubavitch reach 8 million Jews in more than 100 countries. With safety measures limiting many in-person gatherings, Chabad will erect and kindle some 15,000 large public menorahs on streets and thoroughfares worldwide. An estimated 10 million unique visitors are expected to use the practical how-to guides and discover many layers of meaning at the movement’s exceedingly popular Hanukkah.org website. More than 6,500 Hanukkah menorah-topped cars will hit the road in Chabad-organized menorah parades. Additionally, Chabad will help families bring the light and celebration of Hanukkah into their homes by distributing approximately 64 million Hanukkah candles, more than 700,000 menorah kits, 2.5 million holiday guides in 17 languages. Also unique for this year are some 350,000 elaborate family Hanukkah party kits delivered to Jewish homes around the world.

Throughout Long Island, Chabad of Long Island will be organizing dozens of giant menorah displays and public menorah lightings, menorah parades, Hanukkah drive-ins and more. To find a local event on Long Island, or practically anywhere throughout the world, visit ChabadLI.org/HanukkahEvents.

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