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You don’t know Detroit…until you’ve experienced the Super Big Menorah Lighting in the D

Working on giant menorah in Detroit

Detroit, these days, is full of simple pleasures. A great cuppa joe. Pop-up entrepreneurs aplenty. People getting their little piece of the action.

Something about the creativity of this town is resonating with me right now. We have this downtrodden place that has struggles in every possible realm (the library? The art museum? And the obvious players of schools and government). Yet so much beauty everywhere I look convinces me there is change afoot.

This week, I took advantage of all Detroit had to offer in terms of holiday – the dramatic Christmas tree at Campus Martius. The green boughs and red ribbons spiffing up everything from the East Jefferson Avenue business district to urban gardens to house fronts across the city. The Santa in the Renaissance Center who is WAAAAAAAAY better than any mall-based incarnation; he actually spoke to my kid and her friends, teased them about what they did with their gifts last year and read a book with them.

And the lights. There are these shiny bright lights everywhere. Downtown to Midtown to Eastern Market to Cass Corridor. Yes, we’re running short of streetlights and city services. But there are these pockets of people who won’t let that stop them. They are making Detroit so stinkin’ beautiful.

It’s not just about Christmas. Sure, that’s the biggie to some, but not all. The D doesn’t discriminate. No sir. To that end, I bring you news of a very cool event that somehow slipped past me last year – but I don’t intend to make that same mistake again. It’s the Super Big Menorah Lighting in the D.

Starting today, a group of sponsors including the Shul of West Bloomfield, Chabad Lubavitch Community Center, NextGen and Quicken Loans will begin constructing a 24-foot Menorah adjacent to Campius Martius in Cadillac Square Park.  If we honor Christmas, it is more than fitting that we also recognize, celebrate and honor Chanukah. (FYI, NextGen is the youthful division of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.)

The Menorah will be lit during a special ceremony on the fifth night of Chanukah beginning at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday (Dec. 12). The free event is expected to draw thousands of people downtown. This is the second year for the lighting event, which will feature live music, ice skating and food (always food – we must gain our collective winter weight! I’m eager to know what a “free soup bar” looks like…yet another reason to attend).

As my good friend Lisa taught me in college, the Menorah is the traditional symbol of the 8-day festival of Chanukah. It commemorates the miracle of one day’s oil burning for eight days. Created by the Nordin Brothers (Erik and Israel) of the Detroit Design Center, the steel-and-glass Menorah aims to remind the city and region to “work to warm and illuminate the world around us,” said Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov.

Last year, the Menorah was made of ice; this more permanent structure will be used year over year. So there will be the Salvation Army’s giant red kettle, the big Christmas tree and the 24-food Menorah – I’m loving the colossal theme here. Cities all over the world have Menorah ceremonies like this — now, we’re out there with the Big Boys.

Rabbi Shemtov, if you’re interested, will be on hand tomorrow from noon to 2 p.m. during the installation to talk about Chanukah or anything else you care to throw his way. He’s pretty unflappable, so be warned. The Menorah will stand for the entirety of the Chanukah holiday (Saturday, 12/8 – Sunday, 12/16).

“Architecturally, this is going to be one of the most beautiful Menorahs in the world. The ones in London and New York’s Lincoln Square are considered among the best — I’d say we’re going to give them a run for that title,” said Benji Rosenzweig, one of the organizers.

This Menorah lighting brought about 500 people to Detroit last year. Rosenzweig hopes that number will top 1,500 in 2012. His dream is to pack downtown. “We’re not bringing something new to Detroit,” he added. “We’re just polishing something that was a little rusty.”

Interestingly, the word Chanukah translated means “rededication.” What an ideal word for Detroiters to celebrate.

And if you need the address, here’s one for you – see the Menorah at 800 Woodward Avenue, south of Grand Circus Park and north of Hart Plaza. Or check out this web address (www.menorahinthed.com) for more information.

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One comment on “You don’t know Detroit…until you’ve experienced the Super Big Menorah Lighting in the D

  1. This is precisely what makes Detroit such an amazing city. There is such a diverse array of people and cultures and many of them are all working together for the same cause – to make this city a better place. I'm not sure if it's out of necessity due to a lack of resources or if people are just naturally more accepting in Detroit, but I've never experienced anything quite like it.

    I brought a couple of Detroit newbies downtown for the tree lighting in Campus Martius earlier this month and they could not believe their eyes. From the ice skating and shopping to the horse-drawn carriage rides, they were astonished that this was the city that they had seen on the news for being the most dangerous in America. – This menorah represents just a small portion of this city's rise back to greatness. It also shows how inclusive the Detroit community can be. And I think that's the only true way to fix Detroit's major issues – together.

    Thanks for continuously sharing the city's finer points!

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