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A Minyan at the Smoothie King Center

Friday, 15 December, 2023 - 12:11 pm

It has been a whirlwind of a Chanukah. Beautiful events throughout the week drawing record crowds of people looking to connect with their Jewishness and the Chanukah holiday. Hundreds came to the Spanish Plaza – Riverwalk on the first night of Chanukah to participate in the annual lighting of the Menorah. Meaningful words and a moving tribute to the IDF infused the festive lighting and celebration that surrounded it with heartfelt meaning.

Photos of Chanukah @ Riverwalk by Gil Rubman, and other Chabad of Louisiana Chanukah events can be found at www.chabadneworleans.com/5781854.

A photo spread from the Time Picayune can be found at: https://www.nola.com/multimedia/photos/photos-menorah-lit-at-spanish-plaza-on-the-first-day-of-chanukah/collection_306b8388-9573-11ee-adbb-7fbaf2c6ee89.html#1

Coverage from WWLTV of the event can be found at: https://www.wwltv.com/article/news/local/local-jewish-community-celebrates-chanukah-at-spanish-plaza-at-the-riverwalk/289-874b5cdf-cb67-48cc-969a-8201179646d2.

The Mobile Menorah Parade Saturday night was a big hit with the viewers along the streets of New Orleans. We made a stop at Margaret Pl where a JNOLA Chanukah party was taking place, and they all came out to watch the parade drive by. A similar stop was made at BJ’s Lounge where the Klezmer All Stars were playing.

Public Menorah lightings in Metairie, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Jackson and Gulfport, MS along with events at multiple hospitals, senior centers, and schools, really brought the spirit of Chanukah to thousands of people in the region.

One unique event this year was the Chanukah event before the Pelicans game at the Smoothie King Center on Monday night. The large group that attended the Kosher pregame and Menorah lighting was treated to great food and the Chanukah spirit. (See photo gallery). There was even a Minyan for Maariv right before the game near the Menorah lighting. Gabe, our Jewish contact at the Pelicans, was gushing about how meaningful it was to him for a Minyan taking place in the Smoothie King Center and how excited he was about his role in coordinating the event.

Which brings to mind the irony of having a Chanukah event at a sports arena. The Greeks originated the concept of sports arenas. Chanukah celebrates not only the victory in battle against the (Syrian) Greek army, but more importantly the spiritual victory in the struggle over the soul of the Jewish people. For many years Greek culture (Hellenism) infiltrated the land of Israel and a broad segment of Jewish society. The Maccabees fought against the oppression of the Syrian Greek army, but also in the war of culture and spirituality that took place within the Jewish people themselves.

It would seem antithetical to the spirit of Chanukah to connect a holiday celebration with a sports arena. Yet, the lights of the Menorah have the power to illuminate even the “darkest of spaces.” The Menorah is kindled at night, when it is literally dark, facing the outside street, away from the brightness of a Jewish home. The lights of Chanukah are so powerful that they can not only mitigate darkness, but they can even transform that which appears antithetical to the spirit of Chanukah into a vehicle for spreading the message and spirit of this special holiday.

At a time when there seems to be an extra measure of darkness clouding our world, this year’s Chanukah celebrations were that much more poignant and meaningful.

Happy last few hours of Chanukah and Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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