LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The Hanukkah menorah is intended to bring light into the world and Wednesday, Chabad of Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch took the lighting of the menorah to a new level.
On the second night of Hanukkah, a menorah made of 90,000 coins was lit on Lakewood Ranch Main Street as part of the annual Hanukkah celebration, which is sponsored in part by The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee.
Rabbi Mendy Bukiet of Chabad Lubavitch of Bradenton said the congregation decided on the coin menorah this year to raise money for the "people in darkness" in Mideast conflicts involving Israel.
"Bring a little bit of light and joy into their life," he said.
Chabad will send the money to the Chabad Terror Victim Project, a Israel-based organization to help children and others affected by terror. Bukiet said the total raised won't be known for another day or two because some people have also written checks or have donated with a credit card.
"With everything going on in
Israel, we feel the need to be more involved and active with Israel in helping," Bukiet said.
Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who owns Vanessa Fine Jewelry on Main Street with her husband, donated $500 to the cause at the event.
"We've had some very ugly, horrible things happen in this world, in Israel," she said. "I have friends in Israel that I hear from. Some that have been in some of the fighting that has gone on. Some that have known people that have been injured and it is terrible. It is just horrible that these things are going on right now basically with our family, our friends that are there."
This is not the first year an untraditional menorah was lit at the event. In the past, the menorah has been made out of balloons and cans.
Also during the event, hundreds of people danced to the live music performed by the Freilach Klezmer Band and ate food provided by Falafel with Yoav and Ed's Tavern.
Children said they enjoyed the face painting, dreidel moonbounce and doughnut-making in addition to arts and crafts.
For 11-year-old Steven Cohen of Palmetto, who already had his face painted, the favorite part of the night is the "face paint, sno-cones, dreidel house and all the activities."
Sarasota resident Barbara Cohen (unrelated to Steven Cohen), who said she comes to the event every year, she loves the atmosphere and the freedom to express in public.
"It is wonderful in America that we have the freedom to express ourselves and we feel safe and secure here," Cohen said as she danced to the live music, which is her favorite part. This is part of what Chanukah is in Sarasota and Bradenton."
Claire Aronson, University Parkway/Sarasota reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.