by Deborah Shatz
(EJNews) – The City of Edmonton ushered in a very froelich Chanukah holiday season on a grand scale with the giant outdoor Menorah Lighting Celebration at the Legislature grounds hosted by Chabad Edmonton.
On December 6, a standing room only crowd gathered with Chabad Rabbi Ari and Rebbitzen Rifka Drelich inside the legislature building to take part in the 24th annual celebration. Dignitaries included Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, the Honourable Lois Mitchell and her husband Doug Mitchell, Edmonton West MP Kelly McCauley, MLAs Lorne Dach, Lori Sigurdson, and Ricardo Miranda and City Councilor Michael Oshry as well as Jewish Federation of Edmonton President Ellery Lew and Cantor Bertrand Malo and Kollel Rabbi Eliayahu Glatt.
Edmonton Chabad Rabbi Ari Drelich began the festivities with a quiet meeting of the dignitaries where he explained that Chanukah, the Festival of Lights is an eight day holiday that among other things celebrates the triumph of good over evil and freedom of religious expression. An important component of the holiday is gift giving and in this spirit Rabbi Ari gifted the Hon. Lois Mitchell with a beautiful menorah and the elected officials with lovely pushkes or charity boxes as a constant reminder of the importance of charitable giving and friendship.
The official event then began, emceed by Global TV’s Mike Sobel who welcomed the crowd to the 24th annual event and introduced each of the speakers to the podium. Attendance at this event was incredible. Over 250 Edmontonians from all walks of life streamed into the main floor of the legislature and the overflow went upstairs in the gallery to view the speeches and performances.
Rabbi Drelich spoke about the meaning of Chanukah and the inner message of the holiday – triumph of freedom over oppression and of light over darkness. He also announced that the public celebration would continue in Edmonton to December 7 when for the first time two giant menorahs will be lit at the Edmonton International Airport – one at arrivals and one at departures.
He said that the timing of this event is particularly meaningful this year because the menorahs will greet the Syrian refugees as they arrive in Edmonton and welcome them to Canada, a country that treats people with respect and embraces religious freedom and expression.
On behalf of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton president Ellery Lew welcomed the dignitaries and the several hundred Edmontonians who attended. Then each of the dignitaries spoke about the importance of celebrations such as Chanukah in these troubling times of international terror to remind people about the resilience of the Jewish people and their victory more than 2100 years ago over oppression and tyranny. They relayed that the holiday emphasizes the triumph of spiritual lightness, of good over evil and the importance of tikkun olam – charitable giving to repair the world.
The celebration also featured wonderful performances of Chanukah songs by the Talmud Torah School Choir, followed by a medley of favourite holiday songs performed beautifully by Bert Malo accompanied by pianist Paul Polushin. Rabbi Eliyahu Glatt also performed a rousing version of the prayer “She Hechiyanu” beginning with a stirring accapella vocal and then a spiritually uplifting melody with accompaniment again from Paul Polushin.
The event then adjourned outside to the grounds for the actual lighting of the menorah. Celebrants who had entered the building in daylight were now greeted by the gorgeous, dazzling display of holiday lights on the legislature grounds. The menorah, at the end of the pedway stood statuesque as a symbol of spiritual freedom, waiting for illumination. Rabbi Ari was joined on the lift by Hon. Lois Mitchell as well as MLAs Ricardo Miranda and Lori Sigurdson in the lighting of the first candle of the giant menorah. For the next 8 days a successive candle will be lit each night, so that on the last night of Chanukah 2015 on December 13, the entire Chanukiah will be illuminated.
Following the Menorah lighting, the celebration continued inside the pedway with holiday refreshments for everyone – latkes, sufganiot, cotton candy, popcorn as well as Chanukah gelt and dreidles. Rabbi Dovid Pinson, dressed as a Maccabee delighted the youngsters with a children’s program and fun for the entire family.
Enjoy our photo gallery of the event.