Community celebrates Hanukkah at Lake Ella
By Jennifer Jefferson
Democrat Staff Writer

Rabbi Schneur Z. Oirchman, left, and honorary menorah lighter Buddy Streit of Tallahassee work together to light the community menorah at Lake Ella.

According to Rabbi Schneur Oirechman, most people at the Hanukkah carnival on Sunday

According to Rabbi Schneur Oirechman, most people at the Hanukkah carnival on Sunday weren't members of his synagogue or of Chabad Lubavitch of the Panhandle, the Jewish organization he heads. Many weren't Jewish at all.

At the Lake Ella festival that marked the first of the eight-day Jewish holiday, people came out for fellowship, to experience a different culture and to be proud of who they are.

For Whitney Graham, 17, it was a day of learning. She came to the carnival with her friend Kate Stevenson, 18, who is Jewish. Though some of her family has since converted to Christianity, Stevenson chooses to still practice Judaism. Sunday was her chance to share what she knows about Hanukkah with her friend.

Stevenson explained to Graham how to light the menorah, while Graham got a taste of the doughnuts that were on the table by the latkes.

The celebration was held at Lake Ella with plenty of things to do for kids like face painting, a guessing game about dreidels, tzedakah can toss, pin the flame on the menorah and an Antiochus knock down.

"It makes them feel proud of their heritage," said Oirechman, referring to the children games. "Here, it's not religious. It's just people out being Jewish." (Originally published December 25, 2005)

Menorah Lighting Ceremony at Lake Ella
Liza Park

A giant menorah was set up at Lake Ella in Tallahassee Sunday night, and people participated in a ceremony to light the first candle.

The ceremony was open to the public and organizers say it's a way to educate people about the meaning of Hanukkah.

Rabbi Schneur Oirechman of Chabad of Tallahassee says, "This is all about celebrating Hanukkah and bringing Hanukkah out to the public, because Hanukkah has a universal message to all, which is a message of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, so we want to come out here and share it with everyone."

Hanukkah lasts eight nights. It is also known as the Festival of Lights.

To view more Chanukah Pictures click here



Rabbi Schneur Zalman Oirechman, director of Chabad of Tallahassee and the
capitol district, recites the invocation at Florida’s House of Representatives. See story below.

2/24/2003 5:48:22 PM


Resolution Favoring Israel Passed Unanimously

TALLAHASSEE, FL—On Friday, March 7, Florida’s House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution declaring the state’s solidarity with Israel and support of its fight against terrorism.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman Oirechman, director of Chabad of Tallahassee and the capitol district, was invited by House Speaker Johnnie Byrd to recite the invocation at the event, where he met with Byrd to discuss the resolution.

Sponsored by Republican Representative Adam Hasner, of Delray Beach, the resolution calls on Florida and Israel to maintain healthy relations with each other and offers support through economic trade, cultural exchange programs, and promotion of tourism in both states. “The resolution sends an important message of our support for Israel as the only democratic nation in the Middle East, and America’s staunchest ally in the region,” says Hasner.
While it is true that Israel has garnered major support in the sunshine state because of its large Jewish population, numbering upwards of 600,00, Hasner emphasizes the fact that Florida’s population is still very diverse, making the unanimous passing of this resolution so remarkable. Interestingly this is the first resolution to pass Florida’s House of Representatives in 2003.

Florida, notes Rabbi Oirechman, has been hard hit in the aftermath of September 11th, as tourism plummeted in a state whose economy is largely dependent on it, so Floridians are sympathetic to Israel’s own plight, ever since the rise of the second intifadah in September 2000.

As Chabad Rabbi to the capitol district, this is not Oirechman’s first trip to the House of Representatives, but it was an especially significant trip as it marked an important milestone in American-Israeli relations, setting an example for other states.

Reported by S. Olidort


Governor Lights Menorah
by Victoria Langley

Monday December 2nd, 2002


Governor Jeb Bush continues a holiday tradition Monday with a symbolic lighting of a Hanukkah candle at the capitol. This is the third year the governor has taken part in the menorah lighting in his formal office. The Jewish holiday officially began last Friday. Rabbis assisting the governor in this year's observance say the candle lighting signifies a bringing of light into the lives of others. "To do a good deed. When you actually go and help your neighbor - you have somebody, a poor neighbor, a homebound neighbor, you help them with their shopping, you bring light into their face. When you compliment your colleague, basically thanking our spouses, that's a time we bring light into their life. And that's the message of Hanukkah, unity and light and when we make this world into a better place, every person bring one more good deed, we prepare this world for the coming of the Messiah," explained Rabbi Schneur Oirechman of Chabad of Tallahassee.

The Rabbi says he had said a special blessing for Jeb Bush's re-election so they could continue the menorah lighting tradition in his office. Florida has the fourth-highest Jewish population in the country.

Monday, December 17, 2001

Many gather to light menorah

By John Sevigny


Hailing it as a celebration of not only Judaism but religious freedom and the power of light over darkness, Jews and others gathered at Lake Ella on Sunday to light a menorah - a tradition dating back more than 2,100 years.

The ceremony, which took place at dusk under a gray sky that threatened rain, was organized by Rabbi Schneur Oirechman, director of Chabad Lubavitch, of Tallahassee.

Some said it was the first wide-open celebration of a Jewish holiday they could remember in Tallahassee.

"I've been here almost five years, and I haven't seen a celebration as public as this," said Howard Eagelfeld, 50, who works as an actuary with the state department of insurance.

Hanukkah dates back to 165 B.C., when the Middle East was under the control of pagan Greeks, who under Antiochus Epiphanes IV pressured the Jews to drop some of their religious rites and adopt a Hellenistic way of life and worship.

That year, a small band of Jews reclaimed the temple of Jerusalem from the Greeks. When the victors went to light the temple, they found enough lamp oil to last just one day. But in the miracle that the holiday celebrates, the oil lasted eight days. For this reason, Hanukkah lasts eight nights, and the menorah has eight candles plus a ninth used to light the others.

The word Hanukkah, more traditionally spelled "Chanukah," means "dedication."

Oirechman, 26, who said he came to Tallahassee eight years ago with the aim of "raising Jewish consciousness," said that since the holiday celebrates the victory over those who had hoped to oppress the Jewish faith, it is in a broader sense a celebration of religious freedom.

"Hanukkah is a universal message to the world," he said. "It's a message of light and a message of the victory of religious freedom."

The celebration was attended by elected officials including City Commissioner Charles Billings and Leon County Commissioner Bob Rackleff, who helped light the menorah. It also featured face-painting, clowns and traditional Jewish food.

Oirechman estimates there are 3,000 Jewish students at Florida State University and 3,000 full-time Tallahassee residents who are Jews.

Sandra Whitehead, a 35-year-old housewife who is converting to Judaism, enjoyed the evening in part because it brought out a portion of Tallahassee's population that she said is not known for public celebrations of heritage.

"Tallahassee is so diverse, and I think it's time we started to advertise that," she said.

But Oirechman said perhaps the simplest message of Hanukkah is the power of light, which is more important than ever in times such as these, when much of the world is at war and otherwise plunged into darkness.

"Light doesn't need to fight with darkness," Oirechman said. "When you put a light in a dark room, the darkness disappears automatically."

·  Contact reporter John Sevigny at [email protected] or (850) 599-2206



Menorah Lighting
by Victoria Langley
Monday December 17th, 2001
Governor Jeb Bush lit a menorah in his office today in celebration of Hanukkah. The Jewish holiday ends at sundown today. The tradition commemorates the rededication of the holy temple in Jerusalem after the jews' victory over the Hellenist Syrians in 165 bc. A capitol city rabbi says the menorah lighting ceremony has equal significance today.


"When you light a dark room, the darkness disappears automatically. So we light a menorah in the Governor's office because we want the darkness to disappear," commented Rabbi Schneur Oirechman of Chabad Lubavitch "We don't want any darkness in the state of Florida and in our country....The country's kindness is not only are they letting us do our religions but they're helping us, protecting us. That's what Hanukkah is all about." "
The rabbi also presented the Governor with foil-wrapped candy coins and toy tops called dreidels, also traditional Hanukkah symbols.