8,000 AT NORTH AMERICA'S LARGEST CHANUKAH FESTIVAL
PRESIDENT BUSH SENDS SPECIAL HOLIDAY MESSAGE
By: Reuven Arazi
In what organizers call the biggest crowd ever, over 8,000 men, women and children flocked to the McArthur High School Football Stadium in Hollywood, Florida, Thursday night for the 26 th Annual South Florida Chassidic Chanukah Festival. Long established as North America's largest annual Chanukah event, this years Festival surpassed all expectations and past successes.
Sponsored by Chabad of South Broward, the event served as Chabad's 25th birthday celebration in South Broward. Chabad of South Broward is a recognized leader in Jewish education, outreach and social services in 10 Broward cities with 11 centers and over 25 agencies.
Featured at the Festival was the king of Jewish music, Avraham Fried, who performed an incredible concert for over an hour to the delight of young and old alike. Hundreds of festival goers danced at the concerts grand finale in an endless swirl of Chanukah joy and spirit. Also highlighted was the lighting of Florida's largest Menorah, a host of city, county and state representatives, a Chanukah message from President Bush that was sent to Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus, Chabad's executive vice president, and a guest appearance by Israel's #1 musician Gad Elbaz. The festival was graced with Jews of all backgrounds, many who said they do not even attend Yom Kippur services! Two thousand children received a real dollar of Chanukah gelt (money), Chanukah chocolates, dreidels and a children's Chanukah magazine. The goodies were given out to the children by the young ladies of the Chaya Aydel Seminary, Florida's only Jewish Teacher's College.
A special feature this year was Judah Maccabee, a major Chanukah hero, played by Samson Burke, former actor, body builder and champion wrestler, who starred as Hercules in the classic movie "The Three Stooges Meets Hercules".
"Judah Maccabee" assisted the dignitaries in the lighting of the Menorah. Participating were Rabbi Abraham Korf, head Shliach (emissary) to the State of Florida, State Representative Eleanor Sobel, Broward County Commissioner Suzanne Gunzburger, Hollywood Commissioners Keith Wasserstrom and Peter Bober, and Hallandale Beach Commissioner Joe Gibbons.
Avraham Fried made a surprise "grand entrance" when he came out of a yellow convertible sports car driven across the football field by Shmulie Tennenhaus to the theme of Rocky.
The Broward County Commission, and the cities of Hollywood and Hallandale Beach, all issued proclamations calling for "104 days to increase in goodness and kindness and to make Moshiach a reality." The 104 days, corresponding to the 104 th year since the birth of the Rebbe, began on the first day of Chanukah and concludes on the Rebbe's 104th birthday. The President's letter included the message that "During Hanukkah, Jews around the world honor the miracle of Chanukah by lighting the Menorah, a symbol of hope shining through darkness."
Rabbi Moshe Schwartz, Chabad's administrator who grew up in Hollywood, was taken aback by the largest turnout ever. "What amazes me most is that these people were not in a mall, in a park or at a sports venue who just happened to come upon a Menorah lighting ceremony. What boggles the mind is how people from as far away as Orlando to the North, and Key West to the South, saw fit to especially travel long distances to attend this ever growing popular Chanukah Festival that has no parallel here in the USA or beyond."
Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus, the Festival's organizer, was not surprised by the large media presence such as 2 television stations and 6 newspapers who were there, nor was he surprised by those who attended from so many varied backgrounds. "Chassidim and those not yet Chassidim, observant and those not yet observant, affiliated and the non-affiliated came en masse together as one people, inspired by the lights of the Menorah to add in acts of goodness and kindness, thus hastening the moment when true freedom will reign with the advent of Moshiach, Now," Rabbi Tennenhaus concluded.