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Devils celebrate Hanukkah with Jewish Heritage Night

by Gordy Stillman / New Jersey Devils
Rabbi Mendel Solomon leads fans in the Hanukkah blessings as Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum prepares to light the menorah. Photo by Courtney Gfroerer

Tonight the New Jersey Devils celebrated Hanukkah and Jewish Heritage Night during the team’s game against the Ottawa Senators at Prudential Center. Outside the Fire Lounge, more than 100 Devils fans from far and wide gathered for a communal menorah lighting to mark the second night of the Jewish Festival of Lights.

Short Hills-based Rabbi Mendel Solomon and joined Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, executive director of the Livingston-based Friendship Circle, a Jewish community organization that provides recreational and social activities for children with special needs, led an excited group of fans in the blessings over the menorah and traditional songs such as the “Dreidel Song” and “Ma-oz Tzur.”

Before lighting the menorah, Rabbi Grossbaum spoke to the gathered crowd about how on each night of Hanukkah one lights an additional candle, and how on each day there is a need for acts of kindness in the world.

Rabbi Solomon spoke briefly about how Hanukkah is a celebration of religious freedom. Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem following a rebellion by a group known as the Maccabees against Antiochus IV, a Greek king in the second century BCE.s As the story goes, when the Maccabees rededicated the temple, they only found enough oil for one night, but miraculously it lasted eight nights until more oil could be produced.

Kids display their Jewish Heritage Night shirts, which say "Let's Go Devils" in Hebrew lettering. Photo by Courtney Gfroerer

In addition to the communal candle lighting, fans that attended as part of Jewish groups were treated to special t-shirts with “Let’s Go Devils!” spelled in Hebrew lettering.

In a show of the type of generosity common in the holiday season, Children with The Friendship Circle offered free menorahs to fans in need of their own. The Friendship Circle was also the beneficiary of the night’s 50/50 raffle, which raised $5,767

After the celebration, Rabbi Solomon described the night’s events as electrifying, saying, “it’s monumental to have Jewish unity at The Rock to celebrate religious freedom.”

Free menorahs were available for fans looking to light the candles through the rest of the holiday. Photo by Courtney Gfroerer

To close out the night The Maccabeats, a popular a cappella group known for their holiday parodies, as well as renditions of more mainstream songs. The group of Yeshiva University alumni gained significant attention in 2010 with their adaptation of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” known as “Candlelight.”

Maccabeats member Julian Horowitz said that for the New Jerseyans in the group, “performing for their home sports franchise is a dream come true.”

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