On Sunday, the community is invited to help build and light a menorah that will be made out of Legos, the popular children’s construction block toys, as part of a Hanukkah celebration.
Rabbi Zalman Charytan said the idea to build a Lego menorah came from his childhood after his brother sent a photo of when Charytan was 6 or 7 years old, and they had built a small menorah out of Legos together.
“We’re always looking for things to engage the kids and give the kids a good memory of the holiday, really give them a hands-on experience so they can say, ‘oh, wow, that holiday was so much fun,’” Charytan said. “This is probably the most unique menorah in Atlanta this year, in the entire metro area.”
Gina Slechta, spokeswoman for the Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta, said the mall was excited to play host to such a distinctive event this holiday season.
“We host many different cultural events at our shopping centers,” Slechta said. “Building the menorah from Legos is very unique and we are excited about the opportunity to host this community event at the center.”
Charytan said a colleague of his in California built an 11-foot-tall Lego menorah a couple years ago, and he decided this would be the perfect activity to give children, and adults, a Hanukkah to remember this year.
“It will be the tallest in Atlanta, just under 7 feet,” Charytan said. “I’ve discovered that Lego is something, if you were really into it when you were a kid, it’s kind of hard to get out of it when you’re an adult. Even when you’re an adult, you’re still a little bit of a Lego maniac, that kind of the feedback I’ve been getting from a lot of people. So I think it appeals to the kids, and I think it appeals to the kid in every person who loves Lego.”
The building of the Lego menorah begins at 4 p.m. Sunday, and Charytan asked that anyone who wishes to participate in the build arrive on time to sign up.
“There’s only a limited amount of opportunity available, because there’s a certain amount of pieces and we have to do it in an orderly fashion,” Charytan said. “So we’re encouraging the families with children that do want to be part of the build to get there on time and there will be a registration table where they will be able to go ahead and get their pieces and they will be able to participate in the build.”
The lighting of the menorah and celebration will start at 5 p.m., and the event will take place in the center of the outlet mall near the food court and fire place. There will be Hanukkah music, blessings and a lighting ceremony, along with small Hanukkah souvenirs and latkes for a “nominal donation.”
“Every child that is there, in addition to partaking in the Lego build, will receive some Hanukkah chocolate gelt, chocolate coins. It’s traditional to give your kids a little bit of money as presents on Hanukkah, and we’re going to be giving out chocolate coins,” Charytan said.
Charytan explained the tradition and symbolism of Hanukkah, which began Thursday night at sundown, is “one which is universal.” Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication, is an eight-day Jewish holiday, commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Charytan said that during the holiday, people give thanks for being able to practice their religion freely and openly, something that Jewish people have been discriminated against and oppressed for multiple times in history.
“The holiday really represents the freedom of religion, the freedom to practice your religion, and that’s really what this country was founded on — democracy and liberty, freedom for all,” Charytan said. “That really ties in with the Thanksgiving theme of this year, and that’s what Hanukkah is about. … The word Hanukkah really means to rededicate the temple and give thanks for the miracles that happened.”
Chabad Jewish Center, the Jewish community outreach that organized the Lego menorah event, serves west and northwest Cobb County, Cherokee County and the Kennesaw State University area, Charytan said. More information can be found on their website at JewishWoodstock.com.
Charytan said that he was grateful to the Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta for hosting the event, and he hopes that this may become a tradition.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing for the entire community. The mall is a beautiful new addition to the community and what better way to the start of Hanukkah this year than to have one of the most central places in the community to have a menorah display,” Charytan said. “Not just for the Jewish community, but for the community at large, the message of the menorah is one of religious freedom, liberty, justice, that’s what the Menorah is all about.”
Charytan said he was grateful for the many community sponsors who helped make the event possible, and he specifically thanked the Toys R Us store for donating some of the Legos that will be used to build the menorah.
“In addition, there’s going to be another menorah on display,” Charytan said. “The menorah that we light every year in the downtown park, that’s going to be on display the entire eight days of Hanukkah at the outlet mall.”
Many other families, including the Cohen family, have been supporting the downtown Woodstock menorah lighting for six years, Charytan said.
“The initial menorah lighting would never have happened without them, and it’s really due to their generosity back six years ago that it happened,” Charytan said. “A lot of thanks is due to them for caring about the community.”
Charytan that a good way to learn more about Hanukkah is by visiting the “world’s most visited faith-based website,” at www.chabad.org. He said the website is expecting to have 3 million unique visitors during the holidays this year.