Chabad across Essex has just facilitated its largest, busiest and most phenomenal Chanukah yet.
The growth of Chabad and the unbelievable support for its events this Chanukah has been nothing less than inspirational in a community that many refer to as “dwindling”. Despite the time of year and the current climate of world events, the Essex Jewish Community has come out in huge numbers onto the streets to celebrate Chanukah.
Every year Chabad adds to its list of Public Menorahs and events with Woodford, in partnership with Woodford Forest United Synagogue, was the latest addition this year. For the very first time, a Public Menorah Lighting was held in Woodford, and while it was expected that between 40-100 people would participate, when 250 people showed up, everyone was blown away! Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg, Rabbi at WFUS said him and his wife were overwhelmed both the numbers and which individuals had chosen to come out to join this event.
Chabad North East London & Essex, led by Rabbi Aryeh & Devorah Sufrin MBE, first put a large Menorah on Gants Hill roundabout over 30 years. Rabbi Sufrin said “for many years, our Menorah on Gants Hill was the only Public Menorah in the area, today, to have 7 Menorahs with 7 Public Events which certainly shows that this community is alive and well and ready to come out with pride to these gatherings”.
Mrs Devorah Sufrin added “It is a pure pleasure to see from humble beginnings how hundreds of participants brave the cold to share in Jewish Unity and Pride at each of these events”.
With the arrival of Rabbi Odom & Henny Brandman to Buckhurst Hill almost 15 years ago, one of their first projects was to get a Public Menorah installed at the top of Queens Road, in the heart of Buckhurst Hill. This then led, through connections they had made with local councillors, to expanding to Menorahs in Chigwell and then Loughton as well.
Chigwell, which is very much central to where many of the local community live, had the largest attendance of all the lightings with over 450 people attending. Rabbi Brandman, who co-ordinates this event said: “Since we began the lightings in Chigwell, it immediately became the largest event and we try and make something special there each year. The Guest of Honour was the Chairman of the Epping Forest District Council, who is the Queens Representative to Essex. The crowds were entertained by The London Zimroh Chorale Choir with Chazan Boruch Sholom Rapoport and words from local Rabbis and Councillors.
Rabbi Moshe Muller, who tragically passed away 4 years ago, was in the process of working on a public Menorah for Barkingside on the Fulwell Cross roundabout, right by the 3 local Jewish schools. Rabbi Sufrin immediately committed to complete the project, and a new, larger Menorah was installed this year in loving memory of Rabbi Muller. His family were present and participated in the very moving lighting ceremony this year and 3 community members spoke about the influence Rabbi Muller had and continues to have on their lives.
Epping, the latest addition to the Essex Chabad Centres, now has a fully time Rabbi & Rebbitzen who joined the Chabad Essex team just in time for Rosh Hashanah this year. The Chanukah event at Epping this year doubled its numbers from previous years with over 150 people participating.
A total of 7 Public Menorah Lightings and events were held, in order they were in: Buckhurst Hill, Loughton, Chigwell, Barkingside, Epping, Gants Hill and Woodford.
Between all the events over 1,850 people participated, young and old together.
Over 1,500 doughnuts were consumed, 2,500 latkes and 65 litres of hot chocolate.
In addition to these public events, Menorahs also stood in local supermarkets, the Ilford Town Hall and numerous car menorahs ensuring the miracles of Chanukah were displayed for all to see. Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin and Rabbi Yossi Posen drove around before Chanukah installing the Menorahs at the local shops.
Rabbi Odom Brandman, together with his logistics team led by Howard Wise, Greg Warren and Alan Grant ensured all the Public Menorahs were set up and working and that the van loaded with the correct supplies arrived on time at each event.
Rabbi Yossi Posen of Chabad Epping commented “Chanukah is one of those really beautiful festivals where Chabad have found a way of literally bringing the warmth and joy out to the streets where we can reach people who may not have been touched or effected otherwise. I myself had the opportunity to meet many new people this Chanukah who came out to the Menorah Lighting event. And, who knows how many thousands of other people saw these Menorahs over Chanukah and what feelings for their Judaism this aroused inside of them”.
Rabbi Brandman added: Many people helped make these events possible and to them we are very thankful as we could not do it without them. Alan Ezeikel, who took pictures and had them edited and emailed to the Rabbis by the next morning each time! Howard Wise and Greg Warren worked hard to bring all the massive Menorahs out of storage. Alan Grant, who built the Menorahs is actively involved in putting them up every year. Other volunteers – Adrian Lee, Shimi Muller, Zalman Muller, Mendel Brandman, Marc Weinberg, Alan Malina, Laraine Warren and Karen Wise were involved in getting the events ready, making over 2,500 latkes and making sure all the events ran smoothly.
As an amazing Chanukah comes to an end, the Rabbis are now all actively working on growing these events for the future and how to further engage the community during the course of the year.