ChabadNewOrleans Blog

Amazing Riverwalk Story, Chanukah Recap

Dear Friend,

I received this email from Rabbi Shmuel Kaufmann of Montreal, Canada about Chanukah @ Riverwalk 2014 and I am sharing it with you.

“We had a Chanukah party at the Gordon home (members of our community) at which Mrs. Robin Gordon told me the following story. Robin's mother, Norma Crossman and husband were on a cruise that had a four day stop in New Orleans. The first night of her stop was also the first night of Chanukah and she was feeling depressed. She was surrounded by “holiday cheer” and here it was the first night of Chanukah and she had nothing Jewish. So she wandered around the French Quarter trying to distract herself from her sadness. Then she heard something that sounded like a party. She assumed it was a private holiday party, but she decided to check it out anyway. Imagine her surprise when she stumbles upon Chanukah @ Riverwalk :). She was thrilled beyond belief! She told Robin that Chabad had this party by the river and there was dancing dreidel and latkes and music. She said it literally saved her Chanukah.

Chanukah 2014 was an especially festive and busy holiday. I would like to give you a recap of some of Chabad’ events and celebrations. Photos of many of the events can be viewed at and

In advance of Chanukah the Olive Press Craft Workshop was offered at schools and Synagogues across the region. The Olive Press is a part of the Living Legacy Series, a project underwritten by the Goldring Family Foundation. This year the Olive Press was presented at Stepping Stones Montessori, Temple Sinai of Lake Charles, JCC Nursery, Bnei Israel of Baton Rouge, Touro Synagogue, Young Audiences Charter School, Chabad Hebrew School and Woldenberg Village.

The Return of Chanukah @ Riverwalk took place on Tuesday, December 16, the first night of Chanukah. The picturesque backdrop of the Mississippi River and beautiful weather combined to lay the ground for one of the most special Chanukah @ Riverwalk celebrations. There was a real feeling of coming home. The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk really outdid themselves to be welcoming and made working on the event a pleasant experience. The event featured a host of great activities and booths, including the Dreidel House Children’s Activity Center, Irina the Facepainter, the Latke Bar, Kosher Cajun Kosher Food, the Information Booth and the Make Change Menorah benefiting victims of terror in Israel. A concert by Yoel Sharabi was enjoyed before and after the ceremony. The dancing dreidel man really kept the place lively throughout the night.

The ceremony was emceed by Vivian Cahn and featured Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Carly Plotkin of Riverwalk, Morris Bart, event co-sponsor, Morton Katz of Federation, Danny Shani of Rosh HaAyin, David Anderson of First NBC – corporate sponsor, Rabbi Zelig Rivkin of Chabad and finally, David Halpern, event co-sponsor, who lit the Menorah. Additional sponsors included, Lakeside Toyota, Taxicabapp by Carriage Group and Ooh Lala Music. Each of the speakers projected the electricity and the specialness of the event, a feeling echoed by many of the nearly 500 participants.

An electric Menorah was also lit at Lakeside Shopping Center for the duration of Chanukah as in previous years.

The Celebrity Chef Latke Cookoff for Young Jewish Professionals was held on Thursday, December 18 at Chabad Uptown. 70 attendees enjoyed the Latkes crafted by the three chefs, Belinda Dahan of Waffles on Maple, Orit Naghi of Mardi Gras Zone and cookoff champion, Sam Melamed. The lighting of the Menorah, raffle prizes, dreidel games, food and beer, schmoozing and networking capped off a wonderful evening for all.

That same night a Chanukah party was held in Baton Rouge for the Israelis working at the Mall of Louisiana.

Chabad of Southern Mississippi, directed by Rabbi Akiva and Hannah Hall, held their inaugural Chanukah event at the Edgewater Mall with over 50 people in attendance. Dreidel man put in another appearance while the participants enjoyed a Menorah lighting, music, latkes and sufganiyot along with crafts for kids. For photos see

Saturday night brought the Mobile Menorah Parade. 15 vehicles equipped with Menorahs or Chanukah flags paraded through uptown New Orleans, the CBD, the French Quarter and the Marigny while bystanders had chocolate gelt and dreidels tossed their way. The traditional after-party at Chabad Uptown for the parade-goers was thrown by the Kehaty and Schreiber families.

On Sunday night the Chanukah party at Chabad Metairie was for Israelis. A delicious BBQ, Menorah lighting, music and group game as well as a great story by Rabbi Nemes made it a wonderful evening.

On Monday afternoon a short Chanukah party was held at Lambeth House. After the Menorah lighting ceremony, the residents were treated to a mini-concert by the Rivkin children who then passed out dreidels, after which everyone enjoyed the Chanukah refreshments.

The Chanukah family party at Chabad Metairie was on Monday evening featuring a dairy dinner, Menorah lighting, children’s program, adult Chanukah challenge and fun for all ages.

The monthly Lunch N Learn with a Chanukah menu and topic was on Tuesday at New York Camera. Chanukah was capped off on Tuesday night with a Rosh Chodesh Society gathering.

A DVD of this year’s Chanukah @ Riverwalk event is available for purchase at a reasonable price. Please contact Malkie Rivkin – [email protected] for details.

This weekend is the 5th of Tevet, a day that has become known as Jewish Book Day. Many Jewish booksellers offer major sales over this weekend. offers a 50% sale on most of their items. To learn why this day is special for books and to see a newly released film “A Movement on Trial” join the farbrengen Saturday night at Chabad Uptown – 7:30 PM.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Have an Oily Chanukah

We are right in the middle of Chanukah and the good times have been rolling! A full report will come next week, G-d willing. Some pictures have been uploaded to the website and many more to come.

One of the major features of Chanukah is anything made with oil. Latkes and sufganiyot are all the rage. Oil is a funny thing. Oil in a Menorah on Chanukah equals a Mitzvah; oil in your hair equals a bad hair day. Oil in a frying pan under latkes equals a Jewish tradition; oil in your facial pores equals zits. So what’s the deal with the oil? Of course we commemorate the miracle of the oil lasting eight days. But there is more to this. We don’t drink water on the seventh day of Passover to remember the splitting of the sea. There something regarding oil that makes it special and worthwhile incorporating into our commemorative tradition.

As always Chassidus gives us the deeper insight. Oil has two qualities that give us a lesson in Jewish life. On one hand, oil doesn’t really mix with any other liquid. Inevitably it floats to the top and separates out. On the other hand whenever oil is inserted into another substance(s) within a short time it manages to affect it entirely. Put a little oil into a dish of food and it becomes oily all over. So while it doesn’t really assimilate it still impacts whatever with which it comes into contact.

As Jews these two qualities must be paramount in our Jewish psyche. On one hand we must remember that we are different and we must remain distinct. Even when we are mixed in by force or by choice, inevitably we float up and separate out, by force or by choice. At the same time, a Jew is always supposed to have a positive impact in his environment. Just as oil impacts everything it touches, we too must be a light unto the nations and never leave the world around unaffected by the lives we live.

Wishing you an oily Chanukah!!

Mazel Tov to Rabbi Michoel and Leah Kerendian upon the birth of their son.

Mazel Tov David and Karine Gies of Paris, France upon the birth of their daughter, Chaya Mushka.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Chanukah - What are we celebrating?

Comedian Jackie Mason commented that Jews are not great fighters, but if you put them in uniform they are the toughest army in the world.

This interesting paradox is subtly reflected in the declaration of our patriarch Isaac, “the voice is the voice of Jacob but the hands are the hands of Esau.”

Last night I had the pleasure of hearing Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, speak at the JCC. He delivered an unwavering message about Israel’s right and need to be strong in the face of those threatening her safety and existence. It was especially refreshing to see the ambassador speak with a kippa on his head. In the course of his excellent presentation Mr. Dermer said one thing that I feel requires some adjustment and refocusing.

He mentioned that we are getting ready for Chanukah, which is the holiday that celebrates the first time (since Joshua’s conquest of Canaan) that Jewish people fought for their national sovereignty. This is technically correct, because the second Temple was built while Israel was under Persian rule. It was the Maccabees rebellion against the Syrian Greeks that established the Hasmonean dynasty, the first and only period of Jewish sovereignty since the Babylonian conquest of Israel until the establishment of the modern state of Israel. Sadly this dynasty disintegrated very quickly and within two generations it became morally corrupt, spiritually empty, and politically beholden to another world power, Rome, which eventually led to Roman conquest and the destruction of the second Temple.

The reason why I feel this needs to be adjusted and refocused is because Chanukah is much less about the Maccabean victory and much more about the subsequent miracle of the oil. Indeed the Talmud, when discussing Chanukah, asks, “What is Chanukah?” Rashi explains, “For which miracle was the holiday established?” The Talmud then goes on to talk very little about the battle and focuses mostly on the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days. Indeed the Chanukah observances commemorate only the oil miracle with a mere mention of the Maccabean victory in the added prayer of V’al Hanissim. The lighting of the Menorah, the primary observance of Chanukah, does not allude to the miracle of the battle at all. It seems that in Jewish thought the miracle of the Maccabees is incidental to the main miracle of the oil. Certainly it got us to where we needed to be in order to have the miracle of the oil, but it was only a means to an end.

There are many explanations for this concept. (See: The Real Message of Chanukah for more on this.)

One point I would like to share is that as Jews, our primary occupation in this world is “the voice of Jacob” – prayer, study, using our minds and hearts to grow and inspire others to grow. Using hands is the occupation of Esau. Certainly when needed, even Jacob used the “hands of Esau.” But that is not what we are about. While history shows that we had many great warriors, Samson, King David, Judah Maccabee, and Bar Kochba just to name a few, our primary contribution to humankind and history is the “voice of Jacob,” our scholars, sages and teachers – our spiritual and intellectual leadership.  

So we need a strong army and we should be proud of the warriors and soldiers, but we need to know that this is only a means to the end. Our real goal and occupation in the world is to use “voice of Jacob,” and live by the Torah and Hashem’s ways.

Mazel Tov to Rabbi Gabe and Abby Greenberg upon the birth of their son.

Important Chanukah @ Riverwalk Information: Event parking for $5 will be available at all Hilton lots - (the outdoor Whale Lot – on the corner of Julia St. & Convention Center Blvd, the Hilton Hotel garage, and the World Trade Center garage – which is the closet to Spanish Plaza and can be accessed via the Hilton roundabout). Parking vouchers can be picked up at the information booth during the event. You will need a voucher to get the event rate.

We recently posted some vintage Chanukah @ Riverwalk footage from 1999, including the moving “passing of the torch ceremony” featuring many old friends some of whom are no longer with us such as Dr. Stan Bleich. You can see the video at

Check out the photo gallery below for photos of Kosher Day, Olive Press in Lake Charles and the Yud Tes Kislev gathering.

Wishing you a bright and joyous Chanukah and we look forward to celebrating with at one of our many Chanukah events.

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Becoming a Torah Scholar

40 years ago a new frontier was opened in the area of Torah study and knowledge. The Rebbe launched a campaign encouraging people to participate in a study cycle of the Rambam’s Mishne Torah (code of Jewish law). He suggested three options. The first was to study three chapters a day thereby completing the entire 14 volume work in just under a year. Option two was to study one chapter a day, thereby completing the cycle in close to three years. The third option was to study the daily Mitzvot corresponding to the chapters of the one year cycle – from the Rambam’s Sefer Hamitzvot.

The uniqueness of this idea was that the Rambam’s work encompassed every single area of Jewish law. By studying all of Mishne Torah once can acquire a general knowledge of all of Torah law. Furthermore this would be done together with thousands of others who followed the same study cycle, introducing an element of Jewish unity as well.

Next week we are coming to close of a cycle – and this cycle also brings together all three options, which are finishing at the same time. Three years ago several members of our community undertook to start the cycle that is now concluding. Their effort was enhanced by the weekly Chayenu publication (, which provides an English translation of the one chapter a day. As the old cycle closes and a new one begins, consider getting on board and get yourself on the road to real Torah knowledge.

We will be celebrating the end of the Rambam cycle with a Siyum this Wednesday, December 10 at 7:00 PM along with a festive meal special gathering in honor of the 19th of Kislev – a day known as the Rosh Hashanah for Chassidism.

This year four local Chabad Rabbis will share insight into four areas of Torah and Jewish life that are enhanced and enlivened by the teachings of Chassidus.

1.      Bringing life and depth into the purpose of the world’s existence.

2.      Bringing life and depth into Torah narratives.

3.      Bringing life and depth into interpersonal relationships.

4.      Bringing life and depth into Mitzvot.

Please join us at the Btesh Family Chabad House for this important event.

The Olive Press Craft Workshop is part of Chabad’s Living Legacy Series, underwritten by the Goldring Family Foundation. This year the workshop is being offered at Stepping Stones Montessori, JCC Nursery, the combined Jewish communities of Lake Charles, Lafayette and Beaumont, TX, B’nei Israel – Baton Rouge, Touro Synagogue, Chabad Hebrew School, and Woldenberg Village.

Mazel Tov to Amatzia and Chaya Argentar upon their marriage this week.

Mazal Tov to the Cazabat family upon the birth and brit milah of Lavi.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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