Icicles formed on Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal’s beard as he helped set up the towering menorah in the center of Berlin.
It wasn’t just any menorah among the thousands that the Chabad-Lubavitch movement erects every Chanukah in public locations around the world. Teichtal, the Chabad rabbi in the German capital, was erecting this one at the Brandenburg Gate, once a symbol of Nazi power.
By nightfall on the first night of Chanukah, the gate through which the Nazis marched and which for 28 years marked the dividing line between East and West Berlin had been transformed into a Jewish symbol.
In what was “the cold, dark center” of Nazi Germany, “we are here to say Am Yisrael Chai!’” — the Jewish people live, said Teichtal, his voice booming across Unter den Linden Boulevard. A few hundred revelers answered in kind.
The menorah lit Wednesday will stay up for the full eight days, with a public candle-lighting ceremony held each night of the holiday.
It marks the sixth year that Chabad of Berlin, with the support of numerous Jewish organizations, has hosted a Chanukah first-night celebration at the Brandenburg Gate. In 2004, Teichtal won permission from the German government, arguing that this would be an event of national importance worthy of such a location.
Sure enough, the image of rabbis dancing in front of the menorah at the Brandenburg Gate appears in newspapers and on websites around the world.
The message is clear: In Germany, the Jews live again.