Annual festival, parade promises 'a great time with tons of Chanukah spirit to go around' at the Waterfront
A parade of lights will illuminate the streets from Shadyside to Squirrel Hill to the Waterfront in Homestead.
More than 100 vehicles will be adorned with lit menorahs for the second annual Chanukah Festival and Menorah Parade from 4:45 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 12 — the first day of the Festival of Lights.
The route begins at 4:45 p.m. at Rodef Shalom in Shadyside and travels through Squirrel Hill to the Waterfront, culminating in a festival and concert that begins at 5 p.m., followed by a menorah lighting.
“This is a way to celebrate the holiday of Chanukah, which is the festival of lights and freedom,” says Rabbi Elchonon “Chonie” Friedman of B'nai Emunoh Chabad in Greenfield, one of the organizers. “It's a family holiday where children get gifts and there is the lighting of candles. Chanukah is a holiday that celebrates religious freedom and that resonates in a country like America.”
Having menorahs perched on top of cars and vans and trucks has been a long-standing tradition in the Squirrel Hill area, but this event has helped to expand the reach into Homestead in hopes of appealing to a broader community, Friedman says.
The lighting of the 12-foot-tall grand menorah will be conducted by city officials and community dignitaries. Friedman says having the menorah lit is symbolic of bringing the light into the cold of upcoming winter.
Most of the festival takes place under the Homestead Grays Bridge. The event is free. There are crafts for the kids and various food choices.
The musical headliner will be 8th Day, a popular Jewish-Chassidic rock band, which makes a return trip for the event. The group, based in Southern California, has a really strong following in the Jewish community, and travels all over the country for performances. Two songs they are known for are “Ya'lili,” and “Hooleh.”
The group was happy to return because last year's atmosphere was festive, high energy with positive vibes, says Bentzi Marcus, co-founder of the band with his brother Shmuel Marcus. Their music can be described as upbeat and inspirational.
“We were blown away by the incredible warmth and enthusiasm of the local community,” Bentzi Marcus says.
The group has been influenced by so many great Jewish artists and genres that the overall sound is very eclectic.
“Old Chasidic melodies, Yiddish classics and Middle Eastern Israeli rock are all in our ‘upbringing' musically speaking,” Shmuel Marcus says. “It's a special blessing that we get to travel around to so many amazing Jewish communities all over the world to perform these types of events. Pittsburgh was one of the top shows on our tour last year, and we expect to increase on that this year, God willing.”