Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chabad Menorah turf wars: Calling the local galach...

Previously Chanukah was about celebrating the victory of the war of the Chashmonaim against the Hellenists. These days Chanukah seems to celebrate turf wars in Chabadland - at least in our CBD. See here and here.

Now another seemingly ridiculous battle by 2 Chabad rabbis which took place in some unheard of township somewhere in New York state has been brought to our attention. And suggestions are being made that they get the local galach to make peace. Fair dinkum! See the penultimate paragraph of the second article.

Back-to-back menorah lightings in Millbrook
By CHRISTINE BATES - Staff Reporter
December, 17, 2009

MILLBROOK — Two menorah lightings happened in front of the Thorne Building in the village as two rabbis held back-to-back celebratory events on the second day of Hanukkah, Saturday, Dec. 12.

First to arrive in front of the Thorne building was Rabbi Yakov Borenstein from Chabad of the Mid-Hudson Valley. According to Hindy Borenstein, the rabbi’s wife, he was able to secure permission from the village at the last minute to begin a celebration at 6:30 p.m.

Borenstein said that for the 6:30 ceremony Curtis Roth of Millbrook stood on a ladder and lit two candles on a portable 9-foot aluminum menorah; Borenstein then offered a message of bringing light to the world. About 30 area residents joined in the celebration, which included Hanukkah songs, music and traditional holiday food. By 7:20 p.m. the menorah had been packed up, and cars were pulling away from the curb.

A new crowd of about 30 people formed on the sidewalk for the second menorah lighting at 7:30 p.m.

Sheldon and Adele Lobel, Millbrook residents, said they noticed a sign at the library advertising the 7:30 p.m. event and were excited for Millbrook’s first evening of public menorah lightings.

Charlotte Mann said she had heard there would also be a menorah made out of canned food that would be donated to a food pantry.
The crowd was a bit restless in the cold when Rabbi Hanoch Hecht, also known as the “Six-Minute Rabbi,” of the Rhinebeck Jewish Center, pulled up some time after 7:30 with his family and set up a large, rustic, wooden menorah. Hecht had received official permission from the village several weeks before, and the event had been widely publicized, including in The Millerton News.

Hecht lit the central candle, and then two more candles, one for each night of Hanukkah. He stood to the side of the lighted candles and spoke about placing a menorah “by the window, adding one candle every night to overcome darkness in a step-by step-process.”
His words were followed by Hanukkah songs, warm latkes made by Tzivie, the rabbi’s wife, and sufganiot, powdered sugar jelly doughnuts.

And then we get this from the Chabad Info site (which admittedly isn't considered "mainstream" Lubavitch).

Here we were grumbling about having footballers at the Menorah lightings while at the same time our brethren over there are getting galochim to do the honors! (What say, next year we invite the Greek Orthodox Archbishop to light the Shamash?)
Shliach Hosts Chanukah Party in Church

A priest was welcomed to light the Shamash at a Chanukah gathering organized by Rhinebeck Jewish Center's spiritual leader Rabbi Hanoch Hecht, before the party moved indoors, to the local church. On his site, the rabbi claims to be a fighter of cults and missionaries.

 The public lighting of a menorah in front of the Thorne Building to commemorate Hanukkah occurred in Millbrook for the first time last year, twice on the same night.

This year Rabbi Yacov Borenstein, after lighting the first candle on Wednesday night atop the Walkway Over the Hudson, brought his towering menorah to Millbrook on Thursday, Dec. 2, the second night of Hanukkah, to remain in place until Dec. 9.

The observance of Hanukkah with hot cider, latkes and jelly doughnuts is becoming part of the Millbrook holiday season. Town of Washington Supervisor Florence Prisco, Millbrook’s Deputy Mayor Stan Morse, Paula Redmond from the Millbrook Business Association and Doug Fisher, minister of Grace Episcopal Church, participated. Prisco and Morse greeted the gathering, and Prisco helped to light the second candle with a blow torch as Curtis Ross stood on the ladder to reach the light.

“It’s a safe ladder,” said the rabbi. “I have good insurance.”

All of the candles were then switched on so people could read the words to Hanukkah songs.

In the cold evening air, Borenstein and his wife, Hindy, talked about the meaning of the Jewish holiday. “A little light dispels the darkness and makes the world a better place,” said the rabbi. “It’s not asking much.”

He recounted the story of the Maccabees, who were outnumbered and surrounded by Greek soldiers, and the miracle of the lamp oil, which lasted for eight days.

Following the ceremony, the leftover food and tables were packed up, and the rabbi drove off in his car with a small menorah with three glowing lights attached to its roof.

On Sunday night, Dec. 5, Rabbi Hanoch Hecht from the Rhinebeck Chabad conducted another Hanukkah celebration in front of the Thorne Building, attended by a large number of Millbrook residents.

The Rev. Fisher lit the central candle, known as the shamash or helper candle, and Rabbi Hecht lighted five more for the fifth night of Hanukkah. After a brief prayer and dancing, the group quickly adjourned to the warmth of the parish house of Grace Episcopal Church across the street for hot coffee, latkes and donuts.

The rabbi distributed Hanukkah gelt, chocolate wrapped to look like large gold coins, and Fisher welcomed everyone. The last time the church had an event bringing religions together was in 2002 after 911, when a rabbi spoke at the church and Muslims, Jews and Christians got together at the parish house.

The Millbrook organizers of the event, Steve Peter, Adele and Sheldon Lobel and Joan Blankstein, were very happy that the evening had brought the entire community together.

Lobel suggested that perhaps Fisher could get the two rabbis together before the event next year to have just one Hanukkah lighting. They have already purchased the menorah.

“We want to do good things,” said Lobel.


  1. I have previously defended interfaith initiatives on this site, where rabbis participate in educational fora with galachim. Such events potentially help to reduce religious antisemitism, while creating useful networks for common causes (eg fighting gay "marriage", etc.).

    However, I think this report of a Chabad rabbi inviting the local galachim along to light a menorah and then hosting a quasi-seudah at the church hall must be a first in the history of the Chabad movement, let alone in the Orthodox world. Yes, Chanukah has an ecumenical message - championing freedom of religious expression - but it seems a tad over the top to arrange a Chanukah event that appears to target religious Christians. What exactly does one achieve by having them benscht Chanukah licht?! Surely the purpose of public menorah lightings is pirsumei nissa among Yidden and bringing them close to Yiddishkeit?!

    Chabad of Mid Hudson Valley, directed by Rabbi Yacov and Hindy Borenstein, conducted a public Menorah lighting in the Town of Millbrook on the second night of Chanukah. Chanoch Hecht,of Rhinebeck, went and conducted another public Menorah lighting on the fifth night,using the Menorah we purchased and erected without our permission.
    We wish to clearly state that Chabad of Mid Hudson Valley was in no way associated with this terrible and open chilul Hashem and chilul shem Lubavitch of inviting a galach to light the shammash as well as having a Chanukah party at the church parish. We strongly condemn his actions as being clearly against halacha and against the policy of Chabad Lubavitch.
    Rabbi Yacov Borenstein
    Director, Chabad of Mid Hudson Valley

  3. Great post im amaze reading your blog my friend.

  4. Obviously both rabbis were at fault. Rabbi Hecht should not have had his menorah lit by a galach, and Rabbi Borenstein should not have had his menorah lit by a meshichist. BE'H they will do things better next year.

  5. which meshichist lit Rabbi Borenstein's Menorah? Mr. Curtis Ross, a resident of Millbrook, doesn't even know what a meshichist is. Any other smart comments?


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