Essex Jews celebrated Chanukah with 7 livestreamed Public Menorah Lightings from 7 different locations on 7 evenings of Chanukah, culminating in over 1,100 people at a Grand Drive-In Concert Extravaganza.
Chabad across Essex sent the message loud and clear this Chanukah – At times of darkness, we must spread and increase in light!
The pandemic did NOT mean that Chanukah was cancelled! On the contrary, “it just meant that we had to think out of the box and use the opportunity to ensure that not only was the community going to be inspired by what we were doing, but also that even more people than usual would have the opportunity to engage and become uplifted this Chanukah,” said Rabbi Odom Brandman of Chabad Buckhurst Hill, who worked together with his local Chabad colleagues across the region to deliver a truly memorable Chanukah for the Essex community.
Chabad North East London & Essex, directed by Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin MBE and his wife Devorah, has its regional headquarters in Gants Hill. Over the years, it has branched out to create a successful and flourishing branch in Buckhurst Hill under the direction of Rabbi Odom Brandman with his wife Henny. There is a growing and sprouting branch in Epping, under the direction of Rabbi Yossi Posen with his wife Rivkah and Chabad also has activities in neighbouring Havering and a little further down the road, in Southend.
Chanukah is always a highlight of the year for the community. Large Public Menorahs stand on Gants Hill roundabout, Barkingside roundabout, Chigwell Village Green, in Buckhurst Hill at the top of Queens Road, in Loughton High Street and new for this year, in a prominent position on Epping High Street. A Menorah is also put up in Woodford for a public Menorah Lighting and it is hoped that by next year, a permanent Menorah can be arranged for Woodford as well. Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg, Shliach in Woodford, led a Public Menorah Lighting for the second time and commented that next year, Woodford should have a permanent Menorah.
In previous years, Public Menorah Lightings are held each evening in one of these locations and hundreds of people come out to join these events with local dignitaries and community members.
This year, with the help of Creative Director, Adrian Silas and a livestream camera crew, each of these events were livestreamed with many hundreds tuning in each night, fulfilling the mission of engaging even more people during these times than perhaps even in previous years. People joined from the safety and comfort of their homes and the Menorahs stood proud and bright throughout Chanukah for all to see.
But, however forward thinking and cool livestreamed Menorah Lightings are, the Rabbis felt that this was not enough and something more was needed to really lift people’s spirits and bring the joy and inspiration of Chanukah to the masses.
In Edmonton, not far from all of these communities is a huge Drive-In Cinema facility, designed to operate in a totally contact free covid-safe way with space for 302 cars, a huge 128 square meter screen. The screen could clearly be seen from the very back of the area and all the sound and lighting equipment set up for a great event.
Over 1,100 people booked in to come to the event. Everyone stayed safely in their cars and tuned in to watch and listen to the concert and entertainers through their car radios.
To top it off, a NEW giant Menorah was made for the event by master Menorah maker Alan Grant. The structure was 20 foot high and lit with bright LED lights which really stood out and looked beautiful at the front of the area. Moni Tivoni and his band entertained the crowd with an exciting array of live songs, a magic show and fire spinners were among the entertainers as well.
Another 6 foot Menorah was lit on stage by Rabbi Posen from Chabad Epping, Rabbi Brandman from Buckhurst Hill, Rabbi Wollenberg from Woodford and Rabbi Sufrin from Gants Hill.
The event was also supported by the Chief Rabbi’s Office and some private donors.