An amazing thing happened this week – Detroit emerged from bankruptcy protection. It is the kind of financial freedom that has the potential to turn this community into a powerhouse in the years to come.
It’s about freedom in so many ways – Detroit shed so much past debt that everything feels lighter and leaner in the city right now. In many ways, it makes the holiday celebrations going on around Detroit that much more significant.
On Tuesday, Metro Detroit’s Jewish community and friends of all religions will gather at Campus Martius for the fourth annual Menorah in the D, bringing an anticipated 2,000 people together for a free party of the meaningful kind.
“There’s a message here for the Jewish community, but it’s a larger message which is to all of us especially in our country, whose foundation is religious freedom,” said Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov of The Shul.
The Menorah in the D program is hosted by The Shul of West Bloomfield, a Chabad Lubavitch Community Center, along with NEXTGen from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and Chabad in the “D.” Chabad-organized public Menorah lightings are aimed at renewing people’s sense of Jewish identity, bringing an awareness of Judism to downtown Detroit and attracting faiths of all kinds to the city, Rabbi Shemtov said.
“This event goes back to the core message of what Chanukah really teaches us. There were a small group of Jews who were oppressed from practicing their religion. They had one jug of pure oil, and it seemed like it couldn’t light up the candle – there was not enough. But that jug of oil lasted for eight days,” Rabbi Shemtov said. “That’s really the message: Everyone has a soul and everyone has that jug of pure oil inside them. All you have to do is light it and you’ll see a power to overcome all darkness, all changes.
The night starts at 5:30 p.m. with an official Menorah lighting ceremony, which will include Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Senator-elect Gary Peters. Afterward, there will be music by SoulFarm and refreshments including hot cider and traditional Chanukah doughnuts called sufganiot.
Miryam Rosenzweig, Director of NEXTGen Detroit, said the Menorah lighting began as a way to show young Jewish residents that there was more to Michigan than the suburbs. With Detroit’s emergence from bankruptcy and its revived downtown, she said the city is an ideal setting to show off the area.
In other words, no one feels shy about exploring Detroit, sharing its revitalization and showing off the best of this region in hopes that the community’s young people will stick around.
“The numbers (at these events) have grown exponentially,” Rosenzweig said. “We had an event recently called Latke Vodka. When we first started it (four years ago), we had about 450 people. This year, we had about 1,100.
“There is a strong connection between the city and expats who have moved away from Detroit,” Rosenzweig added. “When people post picture from our events on social media, it lets people in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles know what’s happening here.”
Rosenzweig said those photos generate lots of follow-up phone calls from expats looking for jobs, homes and more in the Detroit area. They want to come home.