Chanukah at the Village, Chabad Palm Coast’s holiday celebration from 5-7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 23, at European Village, will feature the group’s sixth public menorah lighting.
It will be the first to feature a 6-foot menorah made of Legos.
“We’re trying time do something new,” said Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Levi Ezagui, “something more, get the kids involved.”
Ezagui and his wife Tzivya will be with the 15 or so students of their Hebrew school — the first year Chabad (an international nonprofit dedicated to promoting Judaism worldwide) has had a Hebrew school in Palm Coast — when they build the menorah on Dec. 22, to be brought over to European Village on the second day of Chanukah.
“I found the instructions online,” Ezagui said, laughing. “Someone else did the dirty work.”
Besides an expensive excess of Lego pieces, much work goes into preparing for this public celebration of the Festival of Lights. Volunteers need to coordinate with the local businesses sponsoring it, such as Palm Coast Pharmacy, as the celebration is entirely locally funded. This year’s festivities will include a petting zoo, a breakdancing show, face-painting, and a train around the center of European Village. There will need to be a healthy amount of fried, oily food — doughnuts, latkes and such — to symbolize the oil which burned a miraculous eight days and nights for the Maccabees in the second century B.C.
But this is the fourth year of Chanukah at the Village, Ezagui said, and they have around 10 volunteers helping, so the process has become more organized each time and relatively low-stress.
“They’re very accommodating,” he said of the European Village management.
The massive menorah will be one of 15,000 being lit publicly worldwide by Chabad in over 100 countries, symbolizing a message of religious freedom.
“Its the biggest Jewish celebration that we have in Palm Coast,” Ezagui said. He hopes people appreciate what it is to be able to practice and enjoy the Jewish religion freely, as it wasn’t long ago in many places that “to light the menorah could get one imprisoned or killed.”
There must have been a contagious sense of appreciation in previous years, as Ezagui said many of his congregants are people he has met at previous Chanukah celebrations, and last year saw around 350 attendees.
“Some of the best responses we get out of all our yearly activities,” he said, come after Chanukah at the Village.
But the celebration, he emphasized, is for everyone and anyone.
“Labels are for packaging,” Ezagui said. “We don’t differentiate between this Jew and that Jew. If you want to come, you’re welcome. You don’t have to know anything to celebrate.”
Throughout the Festival of Lights’ eight days and nights, Chabad Palm Coast will be involved in the community in other ways as well, hosting other, smaller celebrations, giving out free menorahs and visiting Jews in assisted living to bring the holiday to them.
“The message of Chanukah is that a little light dispels a lot of darkness,” Ezagui said. “When I share it, it doesn’t take away my light, it just makes the room even brighter. A little light is what we need right now.”