Like the parasite that Judaism is, America’s largest national holiday, Christmas, has been eclipsed by the traditional Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, and the national lighting of the Menorah across from the White House. Unknown to most in the U.S., the menorah lighting festival at the White House dates back to 1979 with 2013 celebrating the event’s 35th year.
And it’s not just in Washington D.C. menorah lighting festivals take place around the country every year. It should be obvious by now that the 5.5 million American Jews are becoming bolder and more confident in their place of power in a nation largely consisting of Christian Zionists who profess loyalty to Judaism and Israel.
Hanukkah & Menorah Lighting Ceremonies Around the US:
The winter holidays have a way of bringing people of different beliefs together, recognizing how similar many of our ancient traditions that have survived into modern times may be. This year, Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, begins at sundown on Wednesday November 27th, kicking off the winter holiday season early — just a day before Thanksgiving!
With the upcoming Hanukkah holiday in mind, CityPASS would like to show you some of the biggest, brightest, and most festive menorah lighting ceremonies around the U.S. Whether you’re Jewish by faith, by birth, or not at all, the cultural significance of these ceremonies is something that can be enjoyed by all. Happy Hanukkah!
New York City – Home of the World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah
The United States has the world’s second-largest population of Jews after Israel, with over 5.5 million Jewish people calling this nation home. An estimated 2 million live in New York City alone. From November 27th through December 5th, 2013, the Big Apple shifts its focus to the big menorah at Grand Army Plaza at the corner of the legendary 5th Avenue and 59th Street.
Amid the Manhattan skyscrapers, directly outside the iconic Plaza Hotel, a 32-foot, 4,000-pound menorah constructed of gold-colored steel stands proudly as thousands gather to see the structure lit at sundown. The tips of the menorah contain oil lamps that resemble candlestick wicks. Each night during the eight nights of Hanukkah, a new “wick” is lit with the help of a crane. The lighting takes place within walking distance of Central Park, and admission to this celebratory cultural event is free.
Washington, D.C. – The National Hanukkah Menorah
On Wednesday, November 27th, thousands will gather in the heart of the nation’s capital on the White House Ellipse to witness the ceremonial lighting of the 30-foot menorah. Sponsored by a Hasidic organization, the American Friends of Lubavich (Chabad), the National Menorah lighting dates back to 1979. Next year will mark its 35th anniversary, and plans are already underway to make this occasion even more special next year.
The gathering adds a warm holiday feel to kick off the Hanukkah season right! This year’s outdoor event features traditional latkes and donuts for attendees to enjoy. Music will also add to the festive atmosphere, thanks to performances from the Three Cantors, the U.S. Air Force Band, and renowned Israeli-born Grammy-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari. Tickets to the event are free, but must be reserved in advance to secure seating.
The “Mama Menorah” of San Francisco’s Union Square
During the ‘60s and ‘70s, rock promoter Bill Graham helped elevate San Francisco’s rock scene from a local level to world prominence. Not only did Graham give such artists as the Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, and Rod Stewart to the world, he also gave a shining light of hope to the world. In 1975, Graham helped bring a big, beautiful menorah to San Francisco, right in the heart of its bustling Union Square. Graham himself was a Holocaust survivor and, although he was not devoutly religious, he felt strongly about bringing communities together. The menorah was dubbed the “Mama Menorah” since it helped to give birth to large menorahs and lighting ceremonies in roughly 500 other cities around the globe.
This year’s lighting of the Bill Graham Menorah will take place on November 27th at 5pm PST and will extend for all eight days of the Hanukkah celebration, ending on December 4th. The ceremony will be attended by Andy David, Israeli Consul General, and Lori Starr, Executive Director of The Jewish Contemporary Museum. Music, crafts and activities will also be on tap, as well as a special attraction: a lighting ceremony on the 7th day by The Rabbi and The Robot (a real robot)! The event is free to all and open to the public to attend and join in the celebration.
If you can stand it – take a look at the 22+ videos celebrating Hanukkah in other U.S. cities and around the world in places such as Moscow, Paris, London, Poland, Argentina, and many more.
The other videos show lighting ceremonies in So. Broward, FL., Westchester, West Hempstead, N.Y., Santa Monica, CA., the Governor’s mansions in both Missouri and Wisconsin, Boston, MA., Arizona, New Jersey and Sioux City, IA.
At the website Nationalmenorah.org the lighting ceremony is described:
Perhaps the most prominent public Chanukah program in the world is the annual lighting ceremony of the National Chanukah Menorah on the Ellipse, just across from the White House in Washington, DC.
The lighting of this menorah – the world’s largest – is attended by thousands every year and seen via TV newscasts, internet feeds and other media by tens of millions across the nation and around the world, many of them hundreds of miles from any Jewish community.
Indeed, this menorah has become a premier national and even international symbol of the festival of Chanukah, inspiring many communities across the globe to sponsor more and greater public menorah lighting ceremonies of their own. After all, this is the essence of the celebration – to increasingly proclaim and celebrate the miracle of Chanukah – The Festival of Lights, in the most public manner possible.
In this way, we actively reaffirm the celebration of our freedom, inspired by the historic and present victory of right over might, light over darkness, and understanding and justice over intolerance and bigotry.
The National Menorah Council is uniquely positioned and prepared to offer creative, logistical and other support to many communities worldwide, as initial hesitation is replaced by pride and enthusiasm with regard this celebration.
So, what is Hanukkah all about? Of course, Jewish Wikipedia provides the definition as well as and explanation for the purpose of the holiday.
Hanukkah (/ˈhɑːnəkə/ HAH-nə-kə; Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה, Tiberian: Ḥănukkāh, usually spelled חנוכה, pronounced [χanuˈka] in Modern Hebrew; a transliteration also romanized as Chanukah or Chanukkah), also known as the Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.
The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. The typical Menorah consists of eight branches with an additional raised branch. The extra light is called a shamash (Hebrew: שמש, “attendant”)and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest. The purpose of the shamash is to have a light available for practical use, as using the Hanukkah lights themselves for purposes other than publicizing and meditating upon Hanukkah is forbidden.
The lighting of the national Christmas Tree still takes place at Rockefeller Center in New York, however, that event celebrates the commercialism of the holiday rather than the true meaning, which most Americans know as the birth of Jesus Christ.
The 2013 Christmas Tree lighting at Rockefeller Center:
The answer is their absolute, vile hatred of Jesus Christ portrayed as the “savior” of the world. It’s not so much a problem with the mortal man Christ, but what he represents on earth. The ancient Hebrews never accepted Christ as their savior or anyone else’s for that matter, plus the fact that early Christianity caused thousands of Hebrews to abandon Judaism which angered and enraged the Pharisees.
At this point, it looks as though American Jewry might win eradicating Christmas altogether especially anything religious in origin. Just last last week the Pentagon had to explain their decision to have a Nativity scene removed from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. But as you read you’ll see it’s not a joint decision from the Pentagon, but rather the complaint from Jew, Mickey Weinstein, from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Below is the article:
Pentagon explains decision by Shaw Air Force base to remove Nativity Scene
Now we know why.
The recommendation to remove a Nativity from a Christmas display at the base came from Pentagon lawyers who feared the plastic Baby Jesus could give the appearance that the military is endorsing religion.
A spokesperson for the South Carolina base told me that Pentagon lawyers were acting on a complaint filed by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a radical anti-Christian organization whose leaders appear to hold great sway over President Obama’s Pentagon.
Lt. Keavy Rake said the Pentagon warned that items that are almost exclusively religious in nature, like a Nativity scene, “could appear to endorse religion” if they are displayed alone and away from chapel grounds.
Rake said the Pentagon recommended the Baby Jesus either be displayed on chapel grounds or as “part of a larger secular or multicultural display on base.”
Ultimately, base command made the decision to pull the plug.
Rake said volunteers have been given permission to assemble the Nativity on the chapel groups. Until then, Mary, Joseph and the Newborn King have been covered with a tarp.
“It is truly a sad state of affairs when a demilitarized zone has to be created on an Air Force base for Baby Jesus,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “The events in the Air Force alone show that this is much more than a war on Christmas, this is a war on the freedom of religious expression.”
The controversy started just a few minutes after the Nativity was erected last Friday near the base’s Memorial Lake.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation said they were alerted by an undisclosed number of Airmen who said they were emotionally troubled by the sight of the plastic Jewish family.
The MRFF claims that because the Nativity scene was not located near a chapel it was a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution as well as Air Force policy.
Mikey Weinstein, the president of the group, immediately telephoned the Pentagon and exactly two hours and 15 minutes later the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes had been hauled away.
The Air Force base released a statement explaining that all faith-based and secular groups were offered an opportunity to put up holiday displays. The only group to take advantage of the offer was the one that erected the Nativity.
“Based on only one faith group being represented, 20th Fighter Wing officials determined the appropriate course of action was to celebrate the holiday season consistently and elected to remove the nativity scene from Memorial Lake,” the statement read.
In other words, to truly celebrate the Reason for the Season, you have to remove the Reason for the Season.
Rake acknowledged that if there had there been no complaint from the MRFF the Nativity would probably still be at the Memorial Lake. And contrary to what the MRFF claimed, she said not a single person had complained about the display.
“To the best of our knowledge, nobody directly complained to base officials or through their command or to the chaplain’s office,” she said.
The removal of the Nativity disappointed many Christians on the base.
“I was shocked and disheartened to see the Nativity removed,” said James Ward, a retired Air Force veteran. “This has tarnished the reputation of the Air Force.”
Perkins told me the events at Shaw Air Force Base exposed a glaring problem in the military.
“This is much more than a war on Christmas, this is a war on the freedom of religious expression,” he said.
Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said military members have every right to express their faith, even through a nativity scene.
“This is yet another example of the Air Force yielding to a phone call from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation,” Crews said.
If there is any good news in the controversy, it’s that Americans have finally decided to take a stand. Rake told me her office was inundated with thousands of telephone calls from people demanding that the Nativity scene be returned.
“It brought Christians together who are frankly tired of having their religious freedoms systematically taken away,” Ward told me.
And that, said Perkins, is great news.
“The reason we are hearing about so many of these attacks on Christmas is not necessarily because the number of attacks have increased, but because more and more Americans, both civilians and members of the military, are saying enough is enough,” he said.
But I’m still troubled by the amount of power Mikey Weinstein wields at the Pentagon. It took two hours and 15 minutes for the Pentagon to respond to his query. It took them six days to respond to the media.
The Pentagon may privately assure religious liberty groups that Weinstein is nothing more than a gadfly. But the facts prove otherwise. When Mikey Weinstein speaks, the Pentagon obeys.
Back 2011, Rev. Patrick Mahoney was told by Capitol Police officials that he will face a potential arrest if he reads the Christmas story from the Bible and holds a Nativity display at the Capitol Christmas tree. Mahoney says this should be a wake-up call that our religious freedom of expression is under attack.
Most Americans truly believe that the country was founded on Christian principles, but in reality, that is untrue. America was actually founded under a secular order especially with the separation of church and state. However, most Americans were Christians during the country’s establishment and many of its leaders were also Christians or at least professed to be.
Today, in the 21st century the majority of Americans still claim to be Christian, yet, over time we are watching the country dismiss Christian holidays all together replacing them with Judaic celebrations instead. This is one of the times when the illusion of democracy comes into hard focus. A democracy represents the majority, however, it’s the minority Jews in this case who wins the day, which is only 2% of the population if that much.
According to the internet, 2002 was the last time that a Nativity scene was seen on the White House lawn.
By 2009, Barak Obama was ready to outlaw Christmas permanently and it’s only gotten worse in the ensuing years. Fox News Radio reported this in 2009 –
“Unlike almost all Americans—including atheists—the Obamas do not give their children Christmas gifts. We know this because Barack bragged about this last year to People magazine. So it should come as no big surprise that he and his wife would like to neuter Christmas in the White House. That’s their natural step—to ban the public display of Christian symbols. Have any doubts? Last April, Georgetown University was ordered to put a drape over the name of Jesus as a condition of the president speaking there.
If the Obama’s want to deprive their children of celebrating Christmas, that is their business. It is the business of the public to hold them accountable for the way they celebrate Christmas in the White House. We know one thing for sure: no other administration ever entertained internal discussions on whether to display a nativity scene in the White House.”
Like everything else that’s happened since 9/11, the majority will keep silent as they vigilantly observe every holiday football game and party until the cows come home, while the awake and alert amongst you watch in horror as every American tradition, whether religious or secular, eventually vanishes before our eyes.
In the meantime – MERRY CHRISTMAS!