Aman Ali – LoHud.com
MAMARONECK — Rabbi Mendel Silberstein sifted through items such as 3-D dreidel glasses and Kosher Chinese cookbooks as he prepared to open his Hanukkah fun center, the Dreidel House, on Tuesday.
“All of this is Hanukkah-related,” he said with a chuckle as he pointed to table after table filled with merchandise. “From yo-yos to what have you, it’s amazing how big this holiday has become.”
Each year, the jolly rabbi from Larchmont runs the Dreidel House with his wife, Chana, as a means to excite families about the Jewish festival of lights. The all-day center at 1220 W. Boston Post Road features a wide array of activities such as candle making and interactive games, as well as gift items for sale.
“The idea is to give families in Westchester County a place to go to get a warm feeling for the Hanukkah traditions whether they be orthodox, reform or unaffiliated,” Silberstein said. “That’s the beauty of this because Hanukkah is really a holiday that embraces all Jews. What we do here in the Dreidel House is we make it exciting for the Jewish kids to be involved.”
The Silbersteins are co-directors of Chabad of Larchmont and Mamaroneck, a Jewish outreach organization. This marks the fourth year Chabad has held the Dreidel House, which is among many events the group puts on throughout the year.
“We want to present Judaism to people in a fun, warm, exciting and welcoming way,” Silberstein said. “That’s what we’re all about — not shoving Judaism down anyone’s throat.”
The Dreidel House often brings in repeat visitors. On Tuesday afternoon, Lauren Azuolay of Larchmont brought her two toddlers.
“It’s the third year we’ve come,” she said. “My little ones love to do the paintings and crafts and meet other kids. I like to buy gifts for the holiday for my family. It’s like a tradition in our house now to come every year.”
The Dreidel House also brings in a lot of Jewish schools. Shortly after Azuolay arrived, a bus with about 30 fourth-grade students pulled in from the Westchester-Fairfield Hebrew Academy in Greenwich, Conn.
Silberstein welcomed the students and demonstrated how to extract olive oil, which can be used to light a menorah. He took a sack of olives and the children helped crush it into juice using a cider press. Silberstein then put the liquid into a centrifuge that separated the oil from the juice by spinning it around. The technique works because olive oil is lighter than water, something Silberstein told the children is a valuable moral lesson.
“When you’re mixed in with a group of people, some people are thinking, ‘Should I do the right thing or should I do the wrong thing?’ ” Silberstein said. “Be the best that you can, just like olive oil that rises to the top.”