A 12-foot kerosene menorah, the aroma of fresh latkes, and, yes, the songs of Ziggy Marley attracted dozens of celebrants and shoppers to the second floor of Mt. Lebanon’s Galleria last week as the South Hills Jewish community joined together to observe the fourth night of Chanukah.
The program was sponsored by Chabad of the South Hills, with support from South Hills Jewish Pittsburgh and the Marriott Pittsburgh City Center.
A festive mood permeated the open space on the upper level of the mall, with the sound system and musicians center stage, and tables of complimentary food arranged near a pop-up Chanukah store offering gifts for sale nearby.
“I love this,” said Michele Rosenberg, who makes it a point to attend the annual event. “I think especially nowadays community is important, having a voice is important, and coming together and bringing others into our celebration is what it’s all about.”
“We always come to this event, to be part of the celebration and to be part of the community,” echoed Paul Feldman of Mt. Lebanon.
More than 250 people gathered to enjoy the sounds of Miami-based musician Dr. Laz, who bills himself as “the Rockin’ Rappin’ Reggae Rabbi,” enjoy the food, mingle with others, and join in the lighting of the community menorah.
This was the fourth year Chabad of the South Hills held its communitywide Chanukah fete at the popular mall, said Rabbi Mendel Rosenblum, the group’s spiritual leader.
“This event literally attracts the whole community,” Rosenblum said. “The Galleria is located right between Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon, so the location is very convenient for people.”
While the Galleria Chanukah celebration draws Jews that are affiliated with South Hills congregations, it also appeals to many people who typically do not attend events held at synagogues. For those people, coming to a Jewish celebration at a mall is less complicated, according to Rosenblum.
“This type of event lowers the threshold for people who may be gun-shy about going to an institution,” he explained. “There is a group of families that only comes to the ‘public square’ events, so these events are a good entryway.”
After a first set by Dr. Laz that included Marley’s “Give a Little Love,” as well as time-honored crowd-pleasers such as “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah” and “I Have a Little Dreidel,” Rosenblum addressed the crowd, praising the cohesiveness of the South Hills Jewish community, prior to the menorah lighting.
“This is a community that comes together and puts away labels,” Rosenblum said. “We are one community, and Chanukah is a wonderful way to celebrate Jewish unity.”
Bill Spatz, South Hills Jewish Pittsburgh’s community council chair, lit the huge menorah, as others in the crowd held individual candles. The menorah remained on the upper level of the Galleria for the duration of the holiday, with Chabad lighting it each night, Rosenblum said.
“This is such an unbelievable turnout and a display of public pride in a public setting,” said Batya Rosenblum, co-director of Chabad of the South Hills. “This is the best way to promote light in this day and age.”
Other activities at the celebration included a menorah wood craft for children courtesy of Home Depot, and raffle prizes.
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.