The Festival of Chanukah and menorah parade brings light to the region
The lights illuminated the entire stretch of the Homestead Grays Bridge in Homestead.
They were 125 strong—cars, vans, SUVs—with a menorah attached to the top of the vehicles, headed from Squirrel Hill to the Waterfront in Homestead.
The menorah parade Tuesday marked the illumination of the Jewish festival of lights. Five weeks after the mass shooting at Tree of Life Congregation, organizers said the event was needed to further unite Pittsburgh.
The annual Festival of Chanukah represents a time of hope, said Rabbi Elchonon Friedman of Bnai Emmunoh Chabad in Greenfield, organizer of the festival.
“Our entire region was hurt in the worst possible way,” Friedman said, referring to the Tree of Life attack in October. In addition to the traditional program, 11 candles were lit in memory of the victims.
“This is a night to celebrate, and it’s exciting,” Friedman said as he watched hundreds of people —including many teenagers — enjoying themselves and listening to music from rapper Nissim Black.
Born and raised in Seattle, Black is an American rapper and producer who originally performed under the name D. Black. He retired in 2010 to focus on his conversion to Orthodox Judaism and returned in 2012 under his Hebrew name, Nissim, to begin writing from a more positive standpoint.
The festival featured a menorah parade, live music, ethic foods, children’s activities and, of course, a grand menorah lighting. Lights at this time of year are very important because of the early evening darkness of late fall and early winter, Friedman said. Taking the menorah outside and putting it on parade represents freedom in America to bring the light out to the streets and in public spaces.
Friedman scheduled extra security for the evening’s events.
The festival and parade was co-sponsored by the three Jewish day schools: Yeshiva Schools, Hillel Academy and Community Day Schools, as well as the Friendship Circle, Shalom Pittsburgh, Squirrel Hill Food Pantry and the Chabad centers of the greater Pittsburgh area. Friedman’s congregation and Chabad of Western Pennsylvania partnered with the Waterfront Shopping Center and the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh to celebrate this event.
“This year’s festival is more meaningful,” Friedman said. “Joy after sadness is so much deeper. There is more soul to it. The kids you see here have lived through the sadness and the funerals and the grief. I am happy to see them out on the streets. Judaism will continue to thrive in Pittsburgh.”
JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or [email protected] or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.