Chanukah at Riverwalk, ‘Latkes with a Twist’ highlight first local celebrations

By ALAN SMASON

Chanukah is in the much colder air we are all breathing these days with two recent celebrations setting the bar for joyous holiday festivity.

Richard Cahn lights the first lights on the tallest Chanukiah in the state of Louisiana as part of the annual Chabad Chanukah at the Riverwalk event. (Photo by Alan Smason)

Two events set the bar for local celebrations as the Chabad Lubavitch of Louisiana organization and the Jewish Children’s Regional Service (JCRS) held their own distinctly different events to usher in the Festival of Lights that commemorates the rededication of the Temple and the Jewish victory over the Hasmonean empire in the Second Century B.C.E.

Chabad’s annual Chanukah at the Riverwalk event was held the first night of the holiday in a different location this year. Due to construction at the Spanish Plaza where it has been traditionally held, the event was instead placed on the second-floor terrace of the Riverwalk Outlet Mall. The event was held in honor of David Kaufmann of blessed memory, the organizer of the original Chabad event that started in 1989.

Councilman-elect Joe Giarusso was on hand along with several local community dignitaries.  Kaufmann was memorialized by his friend, Jewish Federation CEO Arnie Fieklow, who along with his wife Dr. Susan Fielkow, were event sponsors. Federation board president Henry Miller welcomed everyone to the event on behalf of Federation.

Jill Halpern served as emcee and remarked how far she had come, having been one of the first celebrants of the original Chanukah at the Riverwalk event in 1989, when she had never heard of the organization. Today she is a respected Chabad member. Rabbi Zelig Rivkin gave his explanations as to the two reasons why the holiday is celebrated – the military victory of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days at the rededication of the Temple.

Morris “Buddy” Bart, another sponsor of the event with his wife Cathy, congratulated the crowd on having come to another holiday celebration and noted that his brother-in-law, Richard Cahn, would be tasked with the honor of lighting the first lights of the night.

Cahn climbed aboard a ladder to light the symbolic shamash (guardian) light first and then the furthest light on the end of the 11-foot tall wooden Chanukiah. Handcrafted by Holocaust survivor Isak Borenstein of blessed memory, it is the tallest menorah in the state of Louisiana.

Following the lighting ceremony, Panorama Jazz Band played music and a second line was orchestrated by L. J. Goldstein and extant members of the Krewe du Jieux.

Meanwhile, the celebrations were decidedly more festive at the Little Gem Saloon as JCRS presented its fourth annual “Latkes with a Twist” event and fundraiser there. 

Catering was by Pizza Delicious, who fashioned several different varieties of latkes by the hundreds to the large crowd of nearly 200 assembled to hear from the Marc Stone 3 blues and rock band. Students from the New Orleans Creative Center for the Arts (NOCCA) assisted in the preparation of the latkes.

Holiday-themed cocktails such as a Hanukkah Sazerac Highball were mixed by Little Gem bartenders from spirits donated by Republic Distributors and the Sazerac Company.

A silent auction was held with many interesting items, while entry to the event cost $25.00. The money raised was earmarked for JCRS programming that serves youngsters and young adults.

The party started at 7:00 p.m. and was still going strong up till 10:00 p.m.

Separate galleries of photos from both events can be viewed below:

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