Hanukkah History in Philadelphia
philadelphia 1974: the first public lighting of the menorah
The holidays are here in Philadelphia! The Thanksgiving Day Parade has marched, Christmas Village at City Hall is bustling and ice skating rinks are open for business. While wish lists are being worked on for Christmas, those who celebrate Hanukkah are already wrapping their presents, as the holiday begins this Sunday at sundown.
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is an 8 day holiday celebrated by Jewish people all over the world. The holiday is to remember a group of Jews, the Maccabees, who defeated the Greek armies that cruelly ruled the Holy Land. What most remember about this holiday is the miracle of oil. The Maccabees only had one jar of oil to burn – made for a single day. The miracle of light is the story of that one jar of oil that burned for 8 whole days.
This Sunday, December 9th, the annual lighting of the menorah will take place at 5:30pm in Rittenhouse Square. This lighting ceremony will mark 41 years since the first public lighting back in 1974, right here in Philadelphia! In front of Independence Mall, a 4 foot wood menorah was lit by Rabbi Abraham Shemtov and 4 students who helped build it. Today, 41 years after the first lighting, this 4 foot tall menorah has evolved into a grand tradition all over the country from D.C. to Central Park.