By ALAN SMASON, Special to the CCJN
The Chabad Lubavitch of Louisiana organization ushered in the Chanukah holiday as it has done for the past 28 years with music, song and holiday food this past Sun., Dec. 2. The Spanish Plaza area now run by the Riverwalk Outlet Connection Mall and still undergoing some construction once again served as the site for the festivities for all but two years.
With an early 4:00 p.m. time for the event to start, but no conflict from a Saints or Pelicans game, Chanukah at the Riverwalk drew a respectable crowd of approximately 300 persons. The event began with a moment of silence to remember Chabad shaliach David Kaufmann of blessed memory, who was the original coordinator of the holiday event and died last year. Kaufmann’s widow Nechama was present at the event.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District David Howard Sinkman served as the master of ceremonies that began after 5:00 p.m.
Councilman Joseph Giarusso III spoke first about the importance of “dedication” and “perseverance,” especially in view of the deadly shooting in Pittsburgh, the nation’s worst anti-Semitic act.
“Part of Chanukah is celebrating who we are as a people, but also reminding everybody of our perseverance and our dedication, not only to each other but to our community,” he said.
On behalf of the Riverwalk Outlet Mall, Frank Quinn welcomed back the Chabad Lubavitch group while Henry Miller, the immediate past president of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, remarked on the size of the crowd as the representative of Federation.
Meanwhile, the Federation CEO’s wife, Dr. Susan Fielkow, filled in for her husband, who was away that night in North Carolina. The Fielkows have served as event sponsors for several years. “When we light this Chanukah menorah tonight, I hope that light not only fills this place but fills all of your homes and all of your hearts,” Dr. Fielkow said. “When we kindle the lights, I hope it brings back wonderful memories, warm feelings in all of you as it does in us.”
As one of the original Chabad shluchim, Rabbi Zelig Rivkin briefly commented on the concept of illumination. First, he said, it’s important to illuminate one’s own life and one’s family before bringing light to the community. According to the rabbi, this will eventually usher in a time, according to the prophet Isaiah when “nation shall not make war” and “the lamb will lie down with the lion.”
“In times of peace (and) in time of community, it starts with us,” he concluded.
Rivkin’s son, Rabbi Mendel Rivkin, commented next, recalling the message “Am Yisrael Chai” (Israel lives). “This year, 80 years after the start of the Holocaust, over 40,000 public celebrations of Chanukah will take place under the auspices of Chabad around the world,” said the younger Rabbi Rivkin.
Six participants on stage read the statement “A little light pushes away much darkness” in Hebrew, Russian, Spanish, French, Parsi and English before the official lighting ceremony.
Dr. Eitan Lang and his wife Chava also served as sponsors of the event. Dr. Lang was chosen to light the first light of the 11-foot wooden Chanukiah, which was handcrafted by Holocaust survivor Isak Borenstein of blessed memory.
As Dr. Lang climbed the ladder, Barry Silver, the son-in-law of the Kaufmanns, recited the two Chanukah blessings and the special Shehecheyanu prayer that is only said the first night.
The shamash light in the center was lit first followed by the most outermost light, signifying the first night of Chanukah.