DAVID SMILEY – Miami Herald
Sitting cross-legged on a classroom floor in Miami Beach, 60 or so wide-eyed school children told Rabbi Shmuly Gutnick to give up the goods.
“More olives! More olives!” they chanted.
Into the olive press the salty fruit went, and as each child turned the contraption’s crank, a dark, dank fluid trickled out and into a pitcher. From the pitcher the juice went into vials and then into a centrifuge.
By the time the children heard the story of how the Maccabees reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 B.C., the purest drops of olive oil had risen to the top of the vials, ready to be poured into a menorah and lit.
On Dec. 3, one week before the first of eight nights, the children of the Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy were told the miracle of how one day’s worth of oil burned for eight nights for the Maccabees, and the joy of Hanukkah had already begun to spread throughout South Florida.
“It’s amazing,” said Gutnick, the 29-year-old director of Chabad Youth Network of Florida, who tours the nation, giving hands-on lectures on Jewish tradition. “They’ll remember this for the rest of their lives. They’re just mesmerized.”
This year, whether it’s dreidels or slam dunks, or charity and chocolate, there is a slew of ways that the more than 100,000 adults and children from Aventura to Homestead can celebrate the festival of lights.
For those wanting to volunteer their time and spread the light of Hanukkah, the Jewish Federation of Greater Miami on Wednesday is heading out to homes from North to South Dade, spending time with shut-in seniors and handing out gift bags.
“This year we’re focusing a lot on families,” said Rabbi Frederick L. Klein, director of the federation’s Jewish Chapelancy Program.
Klein likened the program to the shamash, the stick used to light the menorah’s flames, which symbolize the soul. He said volunteers reached out to about 120 seniors last year.
“The idea is to bring the party to them.”
Parades abound, as well.
On Miami Beach, college students have rented RVs to caravan up to Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach for a larger celebration, and Chabad of Kendall is making its way to the Palace nursing home with a train of cars adorned with electric menorahs.
A Coral Gables, Wolf’s Wine Shoppe is serving up latkes and wine, and Books & Books has invited children’s author Eric Kimmel to a reading Sunday.
In Aventura, an outdoor celebration will be held Wednesday at Mars Family Athletic Field, complete with food, music and the lighting of the menorah.
And in Kendall, Miami Beach and at the American Airlines Arena, contemporary celebrations include rock and rap concerts for the masses, combining tradition with pop culture.
Rabbi Hershel Becker, of Young Israel of Kendall, which is hosting a Hanukkah Rocks! concert Saturday featuring King David’s psalms over rock ‘n’ roll, said music embodies the spirit of the holiday.
“One of the focuses of the Hanukkah celebration is lighting the candles and singing and rejoicing,” Becker said. “So what greater way can we have to celebrate than have the community join together for the lighting of the candles and rejoice with great spirit?”