The largest menorah in New Jersey was re-erected in Monroe on Thursday, Nov. 18, after receiving structural improvements after it toppled over last year due to heavy winds.
After constructing the 32-foot-tall, 21-foot-wide menorah for Hanukkah last year, the Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe had high hopes for its unique project.
The menorah was erected Dec. 8 last year and fell down the very next morning, but that wasn’t enough to deflate the spirits of Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky and his Jewish community at the Chabad Jewish Center.
With the help of a few local businesses, some “major structural improvements” were made, Rabbi Zaklikovsky said.
“The parts are the same, but all the welding was redone,” he said. “It was completely rebuilt. We repainted the whole thing from scratch and reconstructed the base.”
The menorah has now been up for over a week, so apparently the improvements have been successful so far.
“Last year when it fell, it cracked in a bunch of places. It needed the extra work,” Rabbi Zaklikovsky said.
Scamporino Construction transported the menorah to and from Long Island City in Queens for repairs. JNM Fabricators, from Monroe, helped with some repairs; Mid-Atlantic Mechanical, stationed in Jamesburg, provided local transportation, and Vergona Cranes in Englewood put up the menorah.
Regarding the size of the menorah, “There’s nothing that comes even close” (in the state), Rabbi Zaklikovsky said. “Some are 10 to 12 feet high. You gotta be unique to get through the logistics of a thing like this.”
Last year, the menorah took a month or two to build. The repairs have been done sporadically throughout the year.
Dec. 5, the menorah will be lit, and Mayor Pucci will present the Chabad Jewish Center with a proclamation celebrating the menorah. The event will be part of a community wide celebration to which everyone is invited.
The Monroe Township High School Band, jugglers and a guest cantor will perform at the event, which is free.
“A lot of cities around the country have it (a big menorah),” Rabbi Zaklikovsky said.
He said Monroe has such a vibrant Jewish community, it just seemed right to build one here as well.
The Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe received permission from the Chabad chapter in Washington, D.C., to emulate the national menorah in the nation’s capital.
The menorah is located at the intersection of Perrineville Road and Prospect Plains Road. This location was chosen due to its role in the Battle of Monmouth in the Revolutionary War.
“I felt it was significant to have it (the menorah) on a piece of land that helped bring about religious freedom,” Rabbi Zaklikovsky said.
There are about 7,000 to 8,000 Jews in Monroe, but the menorah is “something the whole Monroe community — all of Middlesex County, the whole area — can be proud of,” Rabbi Zaklikovsky said.
The menorah also is dedicated to Menachem Schneersohn, leader of the Chabad movement, who began lighting outdoor menorahs in the 1970s.
The menorah be up until late December or until the end of Hanukah. “I hope to put it up every year,” Rabbi Zaklikovsky said.
The Chabad Jewish Center welcomes any donations from any group or denomination to help cover the cost of the menorah. For more information or to donate, call 732-656-1616 or visit www.chabadmonroe.org.