September 21, 2018

A Hanukkah Party Hits the Streets

Nuchie Shapiro watched from the corner of Melrose Avenue and Alta Vista Boulevard, outside Lala’s Argentine Grill, as minivans, sedans and convertibles drove by slowly with electric menorahs latched to their roofs and trunks. Noticing the occasional outage, Shapiro shouted at drivers to get their acts together.

“Your bulbs are out! Turn your bulbs on!” he hollered. “There you go!”

Shapiro was among the many spectators gathered the night of Dec. 14 to watch the Chabad Los Angeles Car Menorah Parade, an annual celebration organized by Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad–West Coast Talmudical Seminary, a Los Angeles-based Chabad yeshiva.

The parade featured Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad students marking the third night of Hanukkah in a raucous and lively expression of Jewish pride.

“We’re just lighting up the world one candle at a time,” said Eli Chaim Hurwitz, 17, a student at the yeshiva.

Around 6:30 p.m., cars lined up outside the yeshiva, at 7215 Waring Ave., as the sounds of an instrumental version of “Dreidel Song” played from a speaker in the flatbed of a parked pickup truck. Yeshiva students were ready to party. Some were dressed in clown costumes and others in their everyday yeshiva clothes: untucked white button-down shirts and black slacks.

“We’re just lighting up the world one candle at a time.”  —Eli Chaim Hurwitz

They piled into one another’s cars and at 7 p.m. the vehicles drove slowly away from the yeshiva and down the closed-off, residential North Alta Vista Boulevard, before turning onto the busy Melrose Avenue. The route also included Fairfax Avenue, Beverly Boulevard, La Cienega Boulevard and Third Street.

Rabbi Ezra Binyomin Schochet, rosh yeshiva (dean) of the seminary, the West Coast’s largest yeshiva college, was among the spectators, watching along with Hadassah Spalter, his daughter, and Mecha Schochet, his daughter-in-law, who teaches at Ohel Chana High School, a Chabad girls high school.

The Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Fire Department were on the scene.

Mendel Marasow, director of the seminary’s outreach program, helped organize the event. In an interview, he said Hanukkah is an important holiday because it reminds Jews of the importance of spreading the light at a time of darkness.

“Although our world is filled with many challenges and much darkness, the story of Hanukkah teaches us that just like one candle can transform so much darkness, so too can every good deed of kindness we do,” he said.

Shapiro, meanwhile, turned out with his family to show his support for the Chabad movement, he said.

“I’m just a member of the Jewish community here in Los Angeles, and I’m here with my children because to see this is very inspirational, but more so it teaches them to be proud Jews,” Shapiro, a member of Chabad SOLA, said. “So coming here to see this is very special and a big deal for us.”