“Chanukah on The Park” and its symbolic 18-foot menorah continues to beam brighter each year in front of Yellowstone Park in Forest Hills as a multi-generational event that grows logistically and spiritually. On the fourth night of Chanukah on Dec. 10, hundreds were ready to embrace the miracles of the holiday.
This neighborhood tradition, originating in 2015, was founded by Rabbi Mendy Hecht and Rebbetzin Chaya Hecht of Chabad of Forest Hills North (CFHN), who have been serving the community since 2012 as both humanitarians and religious leaders. The festival is another achievement that signifies how CFHN is a community beacon of light, continuing to spread the message behind Chanukah lights year-round. “Each night of Chanukah, we light another candle, as an eternal reminder that while darkness gradually fades, one small flame can create additional light, without losing any of its own brightness,” said Rabbi Mendy.
Chanukah descends from the Hebrew term “chinuch,” meaning inauguration and education. The “Festival of Lights” rejoices the miracle of how a tiny cruse of oil, fit for a single-day supply, conveyed luster for eight days. In addition, it recalls the Jewish victory over a tyrant king and the temple’s rededication in Jerusalem. It is a tradition to eat fried latkes, which symbolizes the miracle of the oil. Memorable Chanukah tunes include “Al Hanisim,” “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah,” “Mi Yimalel,” “Candlelight,” “Light Up The Nights,” “Ma’oz Tzur” and “I Have A Little Dreidel.”
The ambiance of the event was both traditional yet innovative.
“Every year, we must light the 18-foot menorah, which is of number one importance to spread the miracle of light, and we pursue it with our FDNY amazing team that comes to help light with a positive fire,” said Rabbi Mendy.
A firefighter joins the rabbi to accomplish the noble endeavor from a cherry picker. The menorah is kindled with a torch, beginning with the Shamash.
The famous DJ Jordan, known for his great Chanukah hits and Jewish-themed songs, made a comeback. He played Jewish and Israeli-themed songs in support of Israel.
“We change up the entertainment yearly, with something exciting and different that all ages love, so this year, we went even larger, bringing the world-famous ‘Flippenout Trampoline Show’ all the way from Utah,” said Rabbi Mendy.
Acrobatic stunts in the air, off two trampolines and a wall, proved to be an attraction. A CFHN novelty was once again an over 30-foot high Chanukah Gelt drop off the FDNY fire truck that children especially anticipate.
Dreidel mascots and clowns choreographed their way among the crowd. Every attendee received a traditional jelly donut. Known as sufganiyot, this symbolic treat recalls Chanukah’s miracle of the oil. This year’s agenda adds to the diverse history of past events, where highlights included a BMX bike show, an illusionist, a magician, a fire show, an escape artist, a puppet show and a mad science show.
Newly introduced were commemorative Chanukah gold, copper and silver coins. “The Jerusalem Mint” coins are heavily inscribed and feature menorahs, and read “Light Unto The Nations” and “Maccabee Miracles, 165 BCE.” “A coin was gifted for at least $360 in donations (ten times, two times Chai as a biblical 18). Our coin features everything important in one, including a menorah, supporting Israel, terror victims, and Chabad,” said Rabbi Mendy.
Due to the Oct. 7 attacks and antisemitism’s significant rise, attendees repeated passages of the Torah and Psalms for the safety of their brothers and sisters in the Holy Land and worldwide. Rabbi Mendy stated, “For all the hostages and courageous Jewish men and women serving on military bases worldwide, we are the Chanukah flames and their light. The Lubavitcher Rebbe OBM taught us that Chanukah flames remind us that God is at our side, protecting us, guiding us and bringing spiritual light to the darkness that swirls outside.”
He explained, “We choose to add more light in the world and do another mitzvah. We choose hope, belief, strength and salvation. We choose to unite through light. Just as in the past we were victorious and light won, so today we’ll be victorious and light will win. In every single city, state and country, our nation is choosing to fight terror with light. Am Yisrael Chai!”
Rabbi Mendy extended a special thanks to the 112th Precinct, Parks Department and FDNY Ladder 135. A significant storm was predicted, but another Chanukah miracle prevailed, in addition to being 60 degrees. “It was a festive, warm feeling and divine,” he said.