More than 100 large menorahs strapped to car roofs will illuminate the Chabad of Wisconsin parade on Nov. 28. The parade helps publicize the miracle of Chanukah.
This year marks the 17th car parade for the greater Milwaukee area and celebrates the first night of the eight-day Jewish festival of Chanukah. The hourlong procession begins at 3:15 p.m. at The Shul Bayside and winds through Bayside, Mequon, Glendale, Fox Point, Whitefish Bay, Shorewood and Milwaukee.
Janine Bridgeford, a member of Chabad of Glendale/River Hills, said she brings snacks and her Jewish holiday playlist to the event with her son and a few friends. “We go out into the public with our car and drive around the whole town, waving at people standing at the side of the road. They all seem excited and happy, and us, the same,” she said.
The car menorah parade is part of the worldwide Chanukah campaign launched by Rabbi Menachem Schneerson in 1973. Known as the Rebbe, he was the leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement for more than four decades. He encouraged public awareness for the Chanukah festival with the lighting of giant public menorah displays. The static displays and the car menorah parades have since become synonymous with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
“The menorah parade is an incredibly powerful and public way of unabashedly expressing Jewish pride,” said Rabbi Mendel Shmotkin, CEO of Chabad-Lubavitch of Wisconsin. “Public menorah displays have become ubiquitous throughout the Jewish world. It’s critical to having young and old people be able to maintain Jewish continuity and observance in the face of a disaffected world.”
During Chanukah, the Jewish people celebrate victory over a tyrant king and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. A small quantity of oil to light the Temple’s menorah miraculously lasted eight days.
With the lighting of the menorah and games, gifts and treats, Chanukah has come to be a special holiday for children. The menorah car parade gives families the opportunity to engage in a fun way, Shmotkin said. “I can’t tell you the countless times you have a child standing by their parents and pointing and smiling and jumping up and down. They are so excited to see a symbol of their Judaism. It awakens in them something very special and that is the genesis of the menorah parade.”
The menorah parade represents “in our day and age, the victory of light over darkness,” Shmotkin said. “That ultimately is the message of Hanukkah.”
During the parade, “They’re video recording, they’re excited. They love seeing this,” Shmotkin said. “I think that’s why it resonates with people so powerfully. It’s a message that reminds people constantly through some of the darkest days and longest nights of the year, to not be complacent with darkness, but to do something about it. It may not be earth shattering. The way it starts is with people in their own relationships and in their own homes and with their own children, with their own parents.”
Participants in the parade can enroll online or through an email link from a Chabad e-blast to reserve a bulb-lit menorah for the car. The maximum number is just over 100 “and we always sell out,” Shmotkin said, laughing.
Learn more about participating and watching the parade at ChabadWi.org