Thursday, January 23, 2020 -
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Menorah moved; no more communal lighting at JEWISHcolorado

The menorah at Alameda and Dahlia being moved.

The huge menorah stationed for over 30 years at Dahlia and Alameda outside the JEWISHcolorado building is not MIA. It’s currently in the backyard of Bais Menachem, safe and sound.

But it won’t return to the aforementioned intersection this Chanukah, which falls on Dec. 23, or any subsequent Festival of Lights. 

JEWISHcolorado has decided it will no longer host the annual community menorah lighting festivities that attracted hundreds of people since its inception.

Denverites will now gather at synagogues, Chabad centers, skating rinks, private homes and other locations stretching from downtown to outlying suburbs for Chanukah.

Rabbi Jay Strear, president and CEO of JEWISHcolorado, says positive developments stemming from the cancellation of 2018 observances was the primary factor in its decision.

“We were unable to hold the event due to extensive construction, so we invited Colorado organizations to share the details of their menorah lightings with us,” he says. “We then disseminated that information to the entire Denver community.

“The response was overwhelmingly positive. Many expressed enthusiasm for publicizing all the Chanukah celebrations, as opposed to focusing on a single event attended by fewer and fewer individuals.”

He says that Denver residents were thrilled to learn that menorah lightings were taking place closer to where they lived.

“Instead of holding the major Chanukah lighting at JEWISHcolorado, we will promote all of these celebrations,” Strear says.

“It’s a wonderful way to showcase the efforts of these community organizations and groups.”

The gigantic structure currently occupying Bais Menachem’s backyard is considered one of the tallest kosher menorahs in the world.

It has always been recognized as a Chabad menorah.

Rabbi Yisroel Engel, head of Bais Menachem and Chabad-Lubavitch of Colorado, hesitates when asked about what happens next.

“The menorah is with us at this point,” he says. “Temporarily. But it will also be at many other Chabad houses. We’ll have the dates and times soon.”

Engel pauses.

“A traveling menorah,” he muses. “Have menorah, will travel.”

Barry Karp, a retired contractor and a Chabad devotee, had Woody’s Welding craft the menorah to his specifications in 1986 to honor his daughter’s birth, which he calls miraculous — like Chanukah.

“It took about a week to make the menorah,” Karp says. “We made it on the floor. The workers had no idea what it was! Once finished, it stood in the warehouse. Everyone was in awe of the size of this thing.”

When he asked the men how much money they wanted to be paid, they said they didn’t want anything. “It was built for free,” he says.

That inaugural year, the menorah was erected at the intersection of Champa St. and the 16th St. Mall. It moved to the corner of Curtis St. and the pedestrian mall the following year.

The menorah relocated to the front side of the JEWISHcolorado (then Allied Jewish Federation) building on Dahlia St. in 1988. “We both thought that corner would be a good location.”

The exact number of years that JEWISHcolorado has hosted Jewish Denver’s Chanukah lighting — replete with parents, children, Colorado governors and mayors, rabbis, songs and ruach — is anyone’s guess. No one is sure.

But exactly one week ago, Karp’s workers rigged the menorah to enormous cables, carefully lowered it into a truck bed, drove cautiously to Bais Menachem and put it in back of the building.

Karp says the menorah’s future is uncertain.

“I don’t know how you can move it unless you have a truck and cranes,” he says, referring to Engel’s comment that it will go from place to place. “It’s very, very heavy.

“But it will be lit. That’s a guarantee.”

Doug Seserman, the longtime president of JEWISHcolorado who’s now CEO of American Associates of Ben-Gurion University in New York, fondly recalls his evenings under the menorah.

“One of my favorite memories is when John Hickenlooper came to the menorah lighting,” he says. “This might have been his first year as mayor.

“He wore a Christmas tie, thinking it was a ‘holiday tie.’ But John grew to be a great friend of the Jews and a true friend of Israel.”

On those dark, bone-chilling twilights, Denver Jews huddled far beneath the solitary flame for hours. Yet something always kept them warm.

“To me, it was a wonderful community gathering,” Seserman says. “Kids from the JCC sang along with hundreds of us standing outside with elected leadership — the mayor, the governor, city council members, state legislators.

“It also was a great celebration of the freedom of religion,” he says. “This is a cornerstone value of both the US and Israel, as well as one of the underlying messages of Chanukah.”

Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News



Andrea Jacobs

IJN Senior Writer | andrea@ijn.com


6 thoughts on “Menorah moved; no more communal lighting at JEWISHcolorado

    1. Terri Auerbach

      This is a big loss to the community and it makes me sad, too, Barry. Thank you for constructing it. I don’t know why it couldn’t have remained standing tall and proud in ADDITION to all of the other activities being promoted to celebrate Chanukah.

      Reply
  1. Jim Barnard

    Is there any aspect or concerns about anti-Semitic activity where the Menorah might have acted as a potential attraction to terrorists due to the presence of the Menorah outside JewishColorado’s building? If so, this is a sad commentary on our times.

    Reply
  2. hckybrth

    The cancellation of the community Chanukia lighting on Chanuka was one of the few celebrations in which the entire community could celebrate regardless of their being orthodox, reform or other. It was a destination for me meeting old friends and acquaintances and meeting new ones
    It is indeed a very sad day and perhaps a sign of the irrelevance of the organization which now calls itself “Jewish Colorado “ as the offerings with actual Jewish significance declines Years ago i took hebrew classes there with a number of the past shlichim, participated in the community yom atzmaut and yom ha zikaron which were very moving The Denver Jewish community is again moving physically and spiritually to a new place Stephen Gale

    Reply
  3. Barry Joel Karp

    Youre comments are truthful
    Youre comments are correct
    Youre comments are justified. And.
    Youre response is heartfelt, and painful.
    An era has passed.
    An era of Outward community connection to:
    Right values
    Love of fellow
    Kinship of fellow Yidden
    Not to mention the lights them selves
    Life
    Liberty
    Freedom
    Barry J. Karp

    Reply
  4. Barry Joel Karp

    The Denver Jewish Community Menorah sit quietly at its present location. Two Menorahs now sit at Chabad of Colorado. The Chabad Shul Menorah. And looming just behind it; its big brother, The Denver Jewish Community Menorah. Lighting will continue. Fear of exposure is not a mind set for us. That’s one of the reasons we place the Menorah in an outside facing window. Out lights represent the absolute belief of LIFE LIBERTY AND THE PERSUIT OF HAPPIENESS ‘FOR ALL’ . EXPOSURE is a way of life for us.
    The lights of the Denver Jewish Community Menorah has always been lit. And will continue to be lit
    WE ARE NOT AFRAID
    WE ARE PROUD.
    Barry J. Karp.
    Owner, builder

    Reply

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