Festival of Chanukah at Waterfront to bring light to the darkness
The illumination of the Jewish festival of lights is needed more than ever for the community in Pittsburgh, said organizers of the annual Dec. 4 Festival of Chanukah at the Waterfront.
The celebration for Jews around the world is meant to be a time of hope for a much better future, said Rabbi Elchonon Friedman of Bnai Emmunoh Chabad in Greenfield, who is the organizer of the festival.
“Our entire region was hurt in the worst possible way this year. We’ve lost some really wonderful people, and we’re reminded of that daily,” Friedman said. “But as a community we need events like this to show we will always be united in our faith.”
In addition to the traditional program, 11 candles will be lit in memory of the victims who died in the mass shooting at the Tree of Life in October. Donations will also be collected, with proceeds benefiting the Jewish Federation’s Victims of Terror Fund.
The festival will feature a menorah parade, live music, ethic foods, children’s activities and, of course, a grand menorah lighting. Lights at this time of year are very important because of the early evening darkness of late fall and early winter, Friedman said. Taking the menorah outside and putting it on parade represents freedom in America to bring the light out to the streets and in public spaces.
“The more light we can bring, the more happiness we can have,” Friedman said. “We want the city to embrace this event and celebrate together and feel some normalcy. The message is to bring light to the darkness and overpower evil. The light is beautiful, so come out and experience the parade and celebrate.”
The parade starts at 4:45 p.m. in front of Rodef Shalom in Shadyside. It will feature nearly 125 vehicles adorned with menorahs, some homemade. The parade winds through Squirrel Hill and Shadyside and eventually arrives at The Waterfront in Homestead for the grand menorah lighting.
The lighting of the 12-foot grand menorah will take place at 5:45 p.m. outside the Barnes & Noble by the former Macy’s, where former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Randy Grossman will address the crowd along with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
There will be extra security for the evening’s events.
Friedman said he doesn’t want this event to be solely about mourning and grieving but also about healing and moving our city forward.
Some of the festivities will be inside the former Macy’s department store with a stage up nearby. Activities include painting demonstrations with Paint Monkey, ax-throwing with the center’s newest tenant, Throw Axe, and games provided by Dave & Buster’s. The event will also feature a host of traditional Jewish food for sale, including latkes with sour cream or applesauce, waffles, doughnuts and ice cream.
“The Chanukah Festival has become one of our most well-attended and most celebrated events in recent years,” said Carey Kann, general manager at The Waterfront, in a news release. “We’ve worked closely with Rabbi Friedman to put together an event that reflects the sentiments of our Jewish neighbors, and we feel very fortunate to play such a special role in this important holiday celebration again this year.”
This year’s headliner is rap artist, Nissim Black. He will take the stage at 6 p.m. Born and raised in Seattle, Black is an American rapper and producer who originally performed under the name D. Black. He retired in 2010 to focus on his conversion to Orthodox Judaism and returned in 2012 under his Hebrew name, Nissim, to began writing from a more positive standpoint.
The festival and parade is co-sponsored by the three Jewish day schools: Yeshiva Schools, Hillel Academy, and Community Day Schools, as well as the Friendship Circle, Shalom Pittsburgh, Squirrel Hill Food Pantry and the Chabad centers of the greater Pittsburgh area. Friedman’s congregation and Chabad of Western Pennsylvania partner with the Waterfront Shopping Center and the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh to celebrate this event.
The event is free.
“We want to bring out as many people and have as many lights as we can,” Friedman said. “Everyone is invited, and I want people to not be afraid to come to this parade and festival. Let’s not lose faith. Let’s remember those we lost and move forward together. Chanukah is a beloved tradition, and the families in our congregation look forward to celebrating with loved ones every year. This year, that does not change.”
JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.