CLEARWATER — Hundreds of Jews from throughout Pinellas and Pasco counties gathered Sunday for Young Israel Chabad's fifth annual Chanukah on Ice, a communitywide menorah lighting at Westfield Countryside mall.
While Jews typically light the menorah in the privacy of their homes, this was a chance to celebrate as a community.
Rabbi Shalom Adler, director of Young Israel Chabad of Pinellas County for the past 22 years, spoke to the crowd about Hanukkah and its meaning during the gathering, and the colorful 10-foot menorah was lit.
During the two-hour event, people of all ages ice-skated, ate traditional Hanukkah fare such as potato latkes (pancakes) and doughnuts, and recited the Hebrew blessings together — "Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah light."
The giant menorah contained hundreds of multicolored gum balls, which were given out to children after the lighting.
While the holiday of Hanukkah comes to a close tonight, its overall message is eternal: to continue doing good even when it's difficult, and to fight darkness with light.
"Since it's an eight-day holiday, which means it lasts more than the seven days in which the world was created, that indicates its message is timeless and goes beyond the regular cycle of time of a seven-day workweek," Adler said. "And that is what enables the light to continue burning throughout the rest of the year."