Chabad of the Valley’s Chanukah Celebration at CityWalk lived up to its reputation, having been acknowledged to be amongst the largest Chanukah lighting 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 has been involved with the organization of the event for the past 13 years and he served as the Master of Ceremonies saying that, “this is a proud moment for all of us, there is a great feeling of excitement as the broader Jewish community converges on one of Hollywood’s most famous landmarks”.
“From a dream hatched 13 years ago, Chanukah at CityWalk has become a mega-event,” added Rabbi Yossi Baitelman, Director of Chabad of Studio City, crediting the talented production team for crystalizing those dreams. “It was undoubtedly our best year ever!” enthused Jonathan Herzog, an 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.”
This year’s show was a full-scale production including an international all-star line-up including Shloime Gertner 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 came to life as Gertner, Simcha, Choni G. and Schwebel accompanied by Robbie Helperin’s Simcha Orchestra and four back-up singers, performed one hit after another. Despite the excitement of the night, there was a short moment that drew tears from the crowd as Simcha and 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 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 light. He also extended special thanks to the 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 public Menorah lightings by Chabad that bring spirituality to every earthly domain. 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 events 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 given the honor of lighting the enormous 15 ft. menorah.
Gertner and Simcha were then joined on stage with a surprise appearance by the Sufrin brothers, who united for the performance of the classic hit, Ribbono Shel Olam. Gertner and Simcha continued performing their popular songs including, Im Ein Ani Li Mili. The show culminated with a grand finale, as all the singers joined together on stage for a 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.