NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City was set to start the celebration of Chanukah Saturday evening with the ceremonial lighting of a 32-foot-tall memorial at the southeast edge of Central Park.
Dignitaries, rabbis and a large crowd were expected for the ceremony at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, held on a plaza on Fifth Avenue alongside the park.
The steel menorah weighs 4,000 pounds and stands tall enough that organizers will need an electric utility crane and to reach the top. It has real oil lamps, protected from the wind by glass chimneys.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rabbi Schmuel Butman of the Lubavitch Youth Organization will be on hand to light the first lamp.
The eight-day Jewish holiday celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The temple had been seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers for worship of the Greek gods, but a Jewish rebel group known as the Maccabees fought and succeeded to win the temple back.
But upon liberating and rededicating the temple, the Jewish troops found there was only one day’s worth of oil left to light the menorah. But they used the oil that was available, and to their surprise, it lasted eight days.
In a statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg invoked the struggle of the Maccabees in describing New Yorkers’ struggles in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy since late October.
“Chanukah is a special time of year to spend with friends and family, and it’s a story of strength in the face of adversity and moral courage in the face of injustice. In recent weeks, the people of New York have also had our strength and spirit tested. Our city braved one of the most devastating storms ever seen on the East Coast, and New Yorkers of every background and from every borough have stepped up in amazing ways to help their neighbors,” Bloomberg said in the statement. “New York is a city where, even in the toughest of times, we have faith in the future. As New Yorkers light the menorah tonight, I wish them a Happy Chanukah.”
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