by Reuven Arazi
For the third consecutive year, 10,000 men, women and children flocked to Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach Florida, celebrating the 30th Annual South Florida Chassidic Chanukah Festival.
The star studded Festival was preceded by a one hundred car Menorah Parade, that began at Chabad’s Regional Headquarters in Miami Beach, that winded through the streets of Dade county until Gulfstream, which is at the beginning of Broward county.
The evening started with Yossy Bayles and the YBO Orchestra leading a medley of Chanukah and Chassidic songs. The next feature was the LEC boys choir, as 22 boys from the Lubavitch Educational Center in Miami enchanted the thousands in attendance with several Chanukah favorites and a moving medley dedicated to the six holy martyrs who were murdered by terrorists last year in Mumbai.
The huge crowd was then dazzled and mesmerized by the Kenyan Safari Acrobats. Filled with charm, the talented young men spun like dreidels and performed fire eating acts that punctuated the theme of the evening, the Celebration of Lights.
The highlight of the evening was the lighting of Florida’s Largest Menorah, with the participation of many dignitaries and community leaders. The blessings of the Menorah and Maoz Tzur, was led by Cantor Rabbi Yossy Lebovics, principal of the Chaya Aydel Seminary. G-d Bless America was led by Rabbi Ruvi New of Chabad of Boca Raton.
The Sheriff of Broward county, Al Lamberti, was honored with lighting the Shammes (the server candle), and Rabbi Abraham Korf, head shliach to the state of Florida was honored with lighting the first candle. The second candle was lit by Senator Steve Geller, the third by Alan Berkowitz from the Sheriff’s office, the fourth by Bernie Freidman, a partner in one of Florida’s largest law firms, Becker and Poliakoff, the fifth candle by Mr. Mike Daiagi and the sixth candle by Mr. Paul Sussman.
A letter addressed to the 30th Annual Chanukah Festival by Governor Charlie Crist was read by the Sheriff.. The Sheriff, a close friend to Chabad and the Jewish community, was instrumental two years ago in having The Sheriff’s office partner with the Broward CHAI Center in the drug prevention and education program, Project PRIDE. This year, the Sheriff made history by allowing, for the very first time, Jewish inmates in Broward prisons to light real Menorahs on Chanukah.
Vice-Mayor of the Broward County Commission, Sue Gunzburger, read a county Proclamation from the County annoncing “108 Days of adding in acts of Goodness and Kindness to bring Moshiach, NOW!”
Similar Proclamations were issued by the cities of Hollywood and Hallandale Beach. Senator Eleanor Sobel addressed the Festival goers, as she was joined by other dignitarires including Bruce Judewitz from The Jewish Federation of Broward County, Michael Calderin and Chaplain Rick Braswell from the Sheriff’s office, and a number of Jewish police officers from the Shomrim Society.
Lipa Schmeltzer, the hottest name in Jewish music today, entertained, uplifted and brought the joy of Chanukah to new heights, in an unforgettable performance that will resonate in south Florida for years to come. Hundreds of people spontaneously danced in a spirit of unity and Simcha that was unprecedented. The rain, which was a threat all day, briefly came down during the Menorah lighting, and miraculously poured down right at the end of the magical evening.
Thousands of young boys and girls were given Chanukah gift bags by the girls of the Chaya Aydel Seminary, which included Chanukah gelt, dreidels, and chocolate Chanukah coins.
Rabbi Levi Tennenhaus, Chabad’s Program Director and Event Coordinator, raffled off valuable prizes, including free sessions in Chabad of South Broward’s Winter and Summer camps.
Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus, Chabad’s Executive Vice President, shared a blessing he received from the Rebbe back in 1989, after submitting a report of the 10th Annual South Florida Chassidic Chanukah Festival, which mentioned the pleasure the Rebbe had in hearing of the Festival’s success, with emphasis on how this project should have an ongoing effect, with an increase, as the lights of the Menorah increase each night, and that all aspects of Torah Mitzvahs, which are light, should also increase.
Special thanks to all the staff of Chabad of South Broward, to all the volunteers, to all the sponsors, to the young ladies of the Chaya Aydel Seminary and to Sarah Lipskar, for making the evening “a night and Simcha to remember for a lifetime”.