Chanukah Car Parade Puts a New Spin on Chanukah (Photo Essay & Video)
By BaltimoreJewishLife.com/Margie Pensak
Posted on 12/21/11 | Comments (5)
Baltimore, MD-Dec.21 - I knew this would be one of my more challenging assignments--writing while driving in Chabad’s Chanukah Car Parade (texting while driving is illegal, but what about writing?). I practically had to memorize those simultaneous euphoric and emotion-filled feelings I felt while joining the 65-car motorcade. My car was one of the few that was not decked with a menorah on its roof. The procession left the Bnos Yisroel parking lot and drove through “the hood” before continuing onto the JFX to the Inner Harbor. It culminated in McKeldin Square, at the corner of Light Street and E. Pratt Street, where a menorah lighting ceremony, live musical entertainment, and 500 hot latkes, 500 donuts, 500 bottles of spring water and 20 gallons of hot apple cider awaited us.
For me, the experience presented a dichotomy of feelings. I quickly got into the spirit and joy of the first night of Chanukah while driving down Park Heights, Cross Country Boulevard, and Taney Road; people came out of their houses while we passed, and smiled and waved at us. But, at the same time, my mind flashed back to less favorable times for our people, who were persecuted for such open displays of religious belief.
No doubt, everyone felt like a VIP with our police escorts blocking off the streets and the Jones Fall Expressway for our exclusive passage; we were allowed to go through the red lights all the way to the Inner Harbor. I felt an immense sense of Jewish pride. An immense sense of American pride. And, an immense sense of Baltimorean pride.
The bright, flashing blue and red lights, and the loud, shrieking sounds of what seemed like dozens of police motorcycle sirens, was all it took to break my reverie. Not to mention, the magnified recorded boys choir renditions of Chanukah songs like Al Hanisim that accompanied us all the way downtown.
The culmination and highlight of the Chanukah Car Parade was the lighting of the 30 foot tall menorah that Howard Brown, Principal at David S. Brown Enterprises, LTD built in memory of his daughter, Esther Ann Adler, z'l. It was a sight for the guesstimated crowd of 500 people to see Mayor Rawlings-Blake ascend the menorah, in a cherry-picker truck, to light the shamesh with a torch and wave, shouting, “Happy Hanukah!“, and then, again, to watch Howard Brown go up to light the first night’s candle. They cheered and eagerly snapped pictures, while the Kol Hanaarim Boys Choir serenaded us with Haneros Halalu and Maoz Tzur. Music was provided by Steve Levin and dancing followed the ceremony.
Prior to the lighting, Rabbi Levi Druk, director of Chabad of Downtown and Rabbi Chezky Tenenbaum, Director of Development at Chabad of Park Heights presented the Mayor with a commemorative plaque. Subsequently, Mayor Rawlings-Blake extended greetings from the city of Baltimore, followed by greetings extended by Marc B. Terrill, President, THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. These were followed by greetings from the land of Israel by Galit Baram, Counselor - Public and Academic Affairs, Israeli Embassy in DC.
Masters Of Ceremonies, Rabbi Elchonon Lisbon, welcomed the many dignitaries that were present at the lighting ceremony. These included: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, Ms. Betsy Gardner, the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods and Jewish Liaison, Ed Chow, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, State of Maryland, Angela Bernstein, Special Assistant, Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives, representing Governor Martin O’Malley, James Clack, Fire Chief, Baltimore City Fire Department, Roman Clark, Special Assistant, Baltimore City Fire Department, Deputy Commissioner John Skinner, representing Commissioner Fred Bealfeld, Baltimore City Police Department , Major Anthony Brown, Special Operations Section, Major Dennis Smith, Baltimore City Police Department - Central District, Officer Ken Dickstein, Baltimore City Police Department - NW District, Detective Jeremy Silbert, Baltimore City Police Department - Public Affairs Section, Major John Delgado, Baltimore City Police Department - NW District, and Deputy Major Marc Partee, Baltimore City Police Department - NW District.
Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, Spiritual leader of the Shul at Lubavitch Center and regional director of Chabad Lubavitch delivered a Chanukah Message, explaining the importance of individual lighting. “Go home and light your own menorah and educate your children, and make this city and world one of light,” encouraged Rabbi Kaplan.
Spotted in the crowd was Bernard C. “Jack” Young, President of the City Council, who told BaltimoreJewishLife.com that this was his third Chanukah lighting, and said: “This is a wonderful event--the people are out, the children are singing out their hearts, and I’m just happy to be here to celebrate Chanukah with my friends.”
As Rebbetzin Rochel Kaplan summed up the evening, “Joy is permeating this event. The joy of the neshama is something that can only be captured with ruchnius, spirituality. Chanukah is a wonderful time to awaken a neshama through joy….The menorah, right here at the epicenter, tells us that Judaism is alive and kicking. ”