Photos by David Miller Studios
Chabad of the Valley’s Chanukah at CityWalk once again lived up to its reputation, having been acknowledged as amongst the largest Chanukah events in the world. This year, thousands flocked to the plaza at Universal Studios CityWalk for the annual event which for many has become the highlight of the eight day Chanukah Holiday.
Rabbi Mayer Greene, marking his 13th year involved in organizing the event and serving as its Master of Ceremonies, said that “it was a proud moment for all of us, there was a great feeling of excitement as the broader Jewish community converged on one of Hollywood’s most famous landmarks”.
“From a dream hatched 13 years ago, Chanukah at CityWalk has become a mega-event” said Rabbi Yossi Baitelman, Director of Chabad of Studio City, crediting the talented production team for crystallizing those dreams. “It was undoubtedly our best year ever” according to Jonathan Herzog, Executive Producer of the show, “we had some amazing talent on stage……Southern California’s Jewish community had the opportunity to enjoy a concert event of the magnitude rarely seen on the West Coast” said Herzog.
This year’s show was a full-scale production including an international all-star line-up of entertainment, including Shloime Gertner all the way from London, Choni G from South Africa, Shlomo Simcha from Toronto and New York’s Eli Schwebel the acclaimed founder of Lev Tahor.
The outdoor plaza at Universal CityWalk came to life as Gertner, Simcha, Choni G and Schwebel accompanied by four back-up singers and Robbie Halperin’s Simcha Orchestra performed one hit after another. Though even with all the excitement of the night, there was a short moment that drew tears in the crowd as Shlomo Simcha and Eli Schwebel sang Habeit while a tribute video played on the large Jumbotron Astrovision screen in memory of those who tragically lost their lives in Israel in recent months, including all the fallen Israeli Soldiers, who perished in Operation Protective Edge.
In his address, Chabad of the Valley’s Executive Director, Rabbi Yehoshua B. Gordon underscored the intent of The Lubavitcher Rebbe in hosting events like this in a venue such as CityWalk, in order to illuminate darkness and transform it into to light. He also extended special thanks to the anonymous sponsor, who has made Chanukah at CityWalk possible for over a decade.
Rabbi Mordechai Einbinder, Associate Director of Chabad of the Valley, delivered a powerful address extolling the virtues of the evening as a mere reflection of the macro global prowess of the light of the Menorah, creating a spirituality where there remains no domain on earth alien to the light of Chabad. The crowd rallied to Rabbi Einbinder’s call to end “the abortion of injustice and free Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin immediately.
Following the formal ceremony, the event’s behind the scenes technical director, Rabbi Yochanan Baitelman was joined on the podium by well known philanthropist Mr. Lyle Weisman and his family as they were honored with lighting the enormous 15 ft. Menorah.
Gertner and Simcha were then joined on stage with a surprise appearance by the Sufrin brothers, who joined in a performance of the classic hit Ribbono Shel Olam. The two of them then continued performing their popular songs entitled by the same name Im Ein Ani Li Mili. The show culminated with a grand finale, as all the singers joined together on stage for a Hollywood style sound and light spectacular featuring the hit song Hashem Melech.
Under the direction of Ari Greene, the giant stadium-sized screen was a focal point all evening, showcasing all the live onstage entertainment and video presentations. “The miracle of Chanukah came to life here tonight, a real Pirsumei Nissa!” remarked Rabbi Yanky Kahn, Chabad of the Valley’s Director of Development.
Organizers attributed the event’s large turnout to a major social media campaign conducted by Chabad of the Valley’s Tanni Rappaport and Josh Goranson and also acknowledged Yochonon Gordon and Chabad of North Hollywood’s Rabbi Nachman Abend, for their efforts in arranging Chabad’s giant Menorah to be on site for the occasion.
Chanukah at CityWalk was once again sponsored by an anonymous donor and in part by corporate sponsorship including: KRLA 870, The Jewish Link, Milano Collection Wigs, Cambridge Farms/Glatt Mart, KosherLux, AAA Rents and Events, Providence, Altria Senior Living, A Coin Exchange and Nick Trading International.