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Public menorah

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Title: Public menorah  
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Subject: Hanukkah, Chabad offshoot groups, Chabad philosophy, Chabad mitzvah campaigns, Miracle of the cruse of oil
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Public menorah

A public menorah is a large menorah displayed publicly during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. It is done to celebrate the holiday and publicize the miracle of Hanukkah, and is typically accompanied by a public event during one of the nights of Hanukkah attended by invited dignitaries who are honored with lighting the menorah.

The lighting ceremony is often augmented by festivities such as singing, dancing, and traditional Hanukkah foods.[1] Public menorahs are often associated with the Chabad movement and its outreach activities.


The concept of lighting a menorah in a public area dates back to ancient times, where menorahs were lit outside of people's homes and in other public places. Today, home menorahs are often kindled in a window that faces the public thoroughfare. In the modern era, public menorah lighting dates back to 1974, when Rabbi Abraham Shemtov of Philadelphia’s Chabad-Lubavitch Center kindled a small menorah at the foot of the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall.[2] The following year, in 1975, legendary rock prompter Bill Graham sponsored Chabad's menorah in San Francisco.[3][4]

Notable Menorah Lightings

White House National Menorah

Since 1979, the National Menorah has been lit on the White House grounds in celebration of Hanukkah. President Jimmy Carter attended that first ceremony, and President Ronald Reagan designated it the National Menorah.[5] In 2009 the ceremony included then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (now mayor of Chicago),[6] followed by Chief of Staff Jack Lew in 2010 and 2011.[5] In 2012, the first candle was lit with the help of Jeffrey Zients, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.[5]

Downtown Nicosia

Public Hanukkah menorah in Nicosia, Cyprus

Each year Nicosia has lit a National Menorah in celebration of Hanukkah. Nicosia as the capital of the Republic of Cyprus has been the pioneer city to put a Menorah in its city center.

British Parliament

Each year, the House of Commons of the United Kingdom holds a menorah lighting at the home of the Speaker of the House of Commons. The menorah currently used was commissioned by the Rt. Hon. Michael J. Martin MP, former Speaker of the House of Commons.[7]

New York City

The world's largest menorah stands at 32 feet and is lit at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in Manhattan near Central Park. A 4,000-pound structure, it is the work of Israeli artist Yaacov Agam. Because of the menorah’s height, Con Edison assists the lighting by using a crane to lift each person to the top. A Guinness World Record is pending.[1]


Public menorahs are prominently displayed throughout Israel, notably in the Ben Gurion airport[8]

Chabad-Lubavitch menorah campaign

A large Chabad-style menorah in front of the Karlsruhe castle in Karlsruhe, Germany before a public Chabad-Lubavitch menorah lighting ceremony (2006).

Public display and lightings of menorahs are often associated with the Chabad movement. It started in 1974 when the first public menorah was erected by Chabad, and continued to grow over the decade until 1987, when the Torah observance among Jews. Today these menorahs are found all over the globe.


There has been controversy with the public display and lightings of the menorah. Due to Chabad's prominent role in such lighting ceremonies, Chabad has often been the focus of either defending or being criticized for such lightings. In 1989, the County of Allegheny with the support of Chabad, won in the United States Supreme Court against the ACLU in County of Allegheny v. ACLU over the display of a Chabad-owned public menorah. In 1988, the American Jewish Congress produced a 28-page report entitled "The Year of the Menorah", criticizing Chabad's public menorah campaign and the litigation that went with it. It complained of the increase in the number of menorahs placed on public lands, arguing that it was causing tension both within the community and with non-Jews.[10]

In 1989, the city of [17] In addition, in 1991, in White Plains, New York, the Common Council unanimously rejected the display of a Chabad menorah in a public space in the town with the support of many Jews, affirming a local tradition of keeping parks free of religious and political displays.[18]

On the other hand, in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Rabbi Sholom B. Kalmanson of Chabad of Southern Ohio to light an 18-foot menorah in Cincinnati's Fountain Square. Justice John Paul Stevens upheld a lower court ruling that the city could not ban the menorah and other religious displays from the square.[19][20]

Due to the menorah being a Jewish symbol, menorahs in public have been subject to anti-Semitic violence. For instance, in 2009 in Moldova, a group of fundamentalist Orthodox Christians took down a public menorah and replaced it with a cross.[21] The same year, in Vienna, Austria, a Chabad rabbi was attacked by a Muslim man while leading the candle lighting ceremony.[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b Lernar, Dana. "The World's Largest Menorah".  
  2. ^ , JTA, December 5, 2006Spreading like wildfire, but public menorah lightings still controversial
  3. ^ Fishkoff, Sue. "The Rebbe's Army, page 288
  5. ^ a b c "Lighting of national menorah marks the beginning of Hanukkah". CNN. 9 December 2012. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  6. ^ "Rahm Emanuel Lights National Menorah At White House (PHOTOS)". The Associated Press. 13 December 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  7. ^ "M.P. Levene Special Commissions". Retrieved 19 December 2009. 
  8. ^ Massive Chanukah Menorah will Greet Airborne Guests
  9. ^ Sicha of Kislev 25, 5747 (1987)
  10. ^ Menorah displays stir Jewish rift, Miami Herald, June 14, 1987
  11. ^ Mark A. Kaplan v. City of Burlington and Robert Whalen (12/12/89)United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, No. 89-7042; 891 F.2d 1024
  12. ^ Chabad-Lubavitch of Vermont v. City of Burlington, 936 F.2d 109 (C.A.2 (Vt.), 1991)
  13. ^ New Twist to Old Fight: Menorah in Vermont Park, Sally Johnson, New York Times, December 20, 1987
  14. ^ Lubavitch Chabad House, Inc. v. City of Chicago, 917 F.2d 341 (C.A.7 (Ill.), 1990)
  15. ^ Lubavitch of Iowa, Inc. v. Walters, 808 F.2d 656 (C.A.8 (Iowa), 1986),
  16. ^ Congregation Lubavitch v. City of Cincinnati, 923 F.2d 458 (C.A.6 (Ohio), 1991)
  17. ^ Chabad-Lubavitch of Georgia v. Miller, 5 F.3d 1383 (C.A.11 (Ga.), 1993)
  18. ^ White Plains Council Blocks Electric Menorah for Park, Lisa W. Foderaro, New York Times December 3, 1991
  19. ^ , Joe Berkofsky, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, December 6, 2002Supreme Court rules on public chanukiot
  20. ^ Chabad Of Southern Ohio et al. v. City of Cincinnati, 537 U.S. 1501, (2002) (per curiam)
  21. ^ a b "Moldovan Christians Tear Down Public Menorah".  

External links

  • Public Menorahs Around the Globe
  • Public Menorahs from
  • The World's Largest Menorah
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