The world’s largest menorah stands on 59th Street in Manhattan, ready to be lit on the first night of Chanukah this Thursday. This giant symbol of the Jewish holiday outside the Plaza Hotel has been erected every year since its inception in the 1970s. This year, a new addition to the menorah honors New Yorkers who have passed away due to COVID-19.
For years, a menorah in Brooklyn, erected by Rabbi Shimon Hecht in 1985, also claimed the title of the world’s largest. Jewish law prohibits menorahs from being taller than thirty-two feet, and both the Manhattan menorah, which is sponsored by the Lubavitch Youth Organization and the Brooklyn menorah top out at that permissible height. However, the shamash of the Manhattan one pushes its height slightly over. The shamash is the middle candle that is used to light the other candles in the menorah. In the case of the menorah at Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza, the shamash brings the total height to thirty-six feet. The Lubavitch menorah was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2006.
This Manhattan menorah was designed by artist Yaakov Agam. According to a sign at the site, Agam’s design was inspired by drawings created by the Fambam (Maimonides) of the original menorah in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. The Lubavitch menorah weighs in at 4,000 pounds. It assembled in pieces on site. Every year since the first lighting in the 1970s, Rabbi Shmuel Butman, director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization, has presided over candle lighting ceremonies. This has allowed him to meet every mayor since Abraham Beame!
New LED lights that run along the entire frame of the 4,000-pound menorah will light up in honor of New York City’s tens of thousands of COVID-19 victims. Guests are welcome to attend the nightly candle lighting ceremonies during the week of Chanukah, but crowds will be limited. Attendees must wear masks and social distance. The ceremonies will be accompanied by live music. Sunday through Thursday, candle-lighting ceremonies will be held at 5:30 pm, Friday at 3:45 pm, and Saturday at 8:30 pm. The first candle lighting ceremony will be held Thursday, December 10th at 5:30 pm.