This is the 4th year that Menorah in the D has taken place – another one of those events that are hard to ignore when they’re going on just feet from your workplace.
On Tuesday, December 16th, which is the first night of Chanukah, all were welcome to come down and celebrate the lighting ceremony. Snacks and hot cider were provided, as well as live entertainment, all organized by the Shul-Chabad Lubavitch in West Bloomfield.
The menorah itself stands 26 feet tall, one of the largest such community menorahs in the country. It was designed and built by the artists (and brothers) Erik Nordin and Israel Nordin of Detroit Design Center in Corktown.
Thousands came out despite the cool air and spattering of rain throughout the day.
Helping people forget the poor weather was the warm music onstage. Soulfarm is based in NYC and formed in 1991 with their sound being described as a mix of mainstream rock, Jewish/Middle Eastern, bluegrass, and Celtic influences (among others).
Soulfarm has recorded with many well-known musicians such as Perry Farrel and Dispatch; and has opened for Bruce Hornsby, Shawn Colvin, The Wailers, George Clinton, to name a few. They have toured extensively, having performed throughout the US, Europe, Australia and Israel.
Also making the event a success was Whole Foods who provided snacks of bananas, clementines, and squeeze packs of Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter.
People crowded the hot cider tent – being handed out by the steaming cup courtesy of Blakes Orchard & Cider Mill.
I managed to squeeze in and snag a cup myself, as well as a delicious sprinkle cookie from Bake Station.
I then found an open spot in front of the stage again to watch the performers.
Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov gave a wonderful speech – talking about the history of public menorah lightings (starting with one in front of the Liberty Bell), and the meaning behind the practice that we can all take away. Being a light in the darkness of the world.
Rabbi Berel Shemtov talked about 57 years ago coming here to open a Jewish center, and never dreaming that even 10 people might gather here to celebrate their faith, let alone the thousands that do so now.
A little girl stays dry under her ladybug umbrella.
Jay Hack of NextGen Detroit speaks.
Paws mingles through the crowd.
Borrowing the little girl’s umbrella gets a round of giggles from everyone.
The lighting is about to commence.
The group climbs onto a scissor lift to light the menorah.
A large screen projects a video feed so everyone can see the lighting in detail. Jim Ketai of Bedrock had the honor of lighting the first branch.
Along with Jim are Detroit’s Mayor Mike Duggan, Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, and one other.
After the lighting – a group of boys wait for their bus home. Excited from the celebrations, their emotions spill out and they dance on the sidewalk.
Forming a joined circle, singing and dancing, it’s hard not to smile and feel their enthusiasm.
Even random passerby get caught up in it. This young man cheerfully calls out and wraps an arm around the stranger’s shoulder and invites him to dance and join in. The gentleman gives a little jig before continuing on his way – a little confused perhaps but certainly with a smile and a story.
Eventually the revelers climb on to the waiting bus and I cross the street back to my office. On the way a small group are handing out paper bags, markers and electric candles to decorate a luminaria or paper lantern that they were lining the sidewalk with.
It was a beautiful experience to share, independent of religion, and I was very glad I attended. Unlike the suffocating crush of people for the tree lighting, I had some room to wander a bit (even if I had a worse view of the menorah at the end versus where I was for the tree) and the atmosphere was very uplifting.
I would certainly suggest coming down for the celebration next year, or at the very least stopping by to see it lit up in Campus Martius. I do believe it is only out during the 8 days of Chanukah so you’ll have to add a reminder to your calendar for next winter.