New York Giants game to include Sunday Night Football’s first-ever menorah lighting

Chabad's teen network plans to light the menorah at a high-stakes match between the Washington Commanders and New York Giants on the first night of Hanukkah.

 The National Menorah is illuminated after a lighting ceremony to mark the start of Chanukah on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, US, December 2, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS)
The National Menorah is illuminated after a lighting ceremony to mark the start of Chanukah on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, US, December 2, 2018
(photo credit: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS)

During the high-stakes Sunday football match between the Washington Commanders and New York Giants, which falls on the first night of Hanukkah, CTeen International and Chabad of Maryland are slated to orchestrate Sunday Night Football’s first-ever menorah lighting.

"With eighty thousand fans watching from the stands and upwards of eighteen million tuning in from home, the prime-time game’s first public menorah lighting spreads Hanukkah’s light at a time when popular culture reels from antisemitism," Chabad said in a statement. 

New York Giants fans celebrate (credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar)New York Giants fans celebrate (credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar)

The December 18 game, which falls during America's most-watched television slot, will determine which of the rival teams will head to the NFL playoffs. The game will take place at FedEx Field, just outside Washington, DC. 

After the game’s first quarter, a Jewish teen will recite the blessings and light a specially designed menorah on the concourse overlooking the football field as the colossal stadium watches over the jumbotrons. Representatives of CTeen International and Chabad of Maryland will be there too, and are planning to pose with dozens of CTeeners for a photo on the field after the game. 

East Coast CTeen Chapters will be traveling to attend the game and be present for the historic moment. Meanwhile, the rabbis and rebbetzins of Chabad of Maryland are preparing a menorah parade to FedEx Field, a tailgate party outside the game, and pre-game distributions of Chanukah menorahs, latkes, and fresh jelly-laden doughnuts for Jewish fans. 

Of the eighty thousand east-coast fans present at FedEx Field, an estimated ten thousand will be Jewish. “It’s a truly unprecedented opportunity to share the warmth and light of Hanukkah,” said Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky of CTeen International. 

“It’s a truly unprecedented opportunity to share the warmth and light of Hanukkah."

Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky

What is the significance of public menorah lightings? 

The menorah lighting carries on a tradition initiated by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the 1970s to celebrate Hanukkah through widely-viewed menorah lightings, which are meant to share the holiday's message of the power of light over darkness.

Kotlarsky noted the timing of the event. “There are Jewish teens who are feeling uneasy lately,” he said, “to see a fellow teen light the menorah during a major football game will help them hold their heads high as proud Jews and be that little bit of light that illuminates the darkness.”