Migdal Ohr’s Grossman calls for unity on Hanukka

Migdal Ohr will hold Hanukka candle-lighting ceremonies throughout Israel for 6,000 disadvantaged youth.

Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman 370 (photo credit: Israel Bardogo)
Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman 370
(photo credit: Israel Bardogo)
Throughout the eight days of Hanukka, which began Saturday night, several groups around the country will be working to spread the glow and spirit of the festival.
One such organization is Migdal Ohr, the renowned social guidance and educational network established by Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, which will hold Hanukka candle-lighting ceremonies up and down the country for the 6,000 disadvantaged children and youth associated with the organization.
Grossman will attend several of the ceremonies and distribute gifts to the youth in attendance.
In addition, approximately 500 Migdal Ohr children will accompany Grossman to the mass candle-lighting ceremony Monday night at the Western Wall, where the rabbi will be lighting the candles.
Another group getting into the Hanukka spirit is the national-religious association of “religious start-up communities” that have sprung up across Israel. The startup community in Lod, the biggest in the country, with 500 families, will be conducting a series of activities in the city during the festival.
So-called “religious start-up communities” have been established around the country by the Communities Foundation to contribute to the educational and Zionistic life and culture of development towns and provincial communities.
Like Migdal Ohr, candle-lighting ceremonies will feature heavily in the program, with members of the community lighting the hanukkia in four separate neighborhoods of Lod.
City dignitaries will be in attendance, including Mayor Meir Nitzan. Traditional doughnuts, known as sufganiot, will be distributed, and general merriment involving singing and dancing will be encouraged after the religious rituals are completed.
The children and elderly of Lod will also be well-catered for over the holiday by the start-up community.
Candle-lighting ceremonies will be conducted in one of the city’s homes for the elderly, while several theater shows will be staged for children, including a production of Aladdin for close to 450 children.
Grossman, a Pinsk Karlin hassid, became known in the 1970s as the “Discotheque Rabbi” due to his propensity at the time for going to nightclubs in his town of Migdal Ha’emek to converse with the community’s youth.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post, he said that Hanukka was a time to connect to Jewish spirituality and the Torah, since it was the Hellenizing influence of Seleucid Greeks that formed the historical background to the struggle of the Maccabees, whose eventual victory the holiday celebrates.
To emphasize this, Grossman told a story that happened to him several years ago.
While strolling down London’s Finchley Road one Hanukka season, he was accosted by a group of Hebrew-speaking youths who asked him if he was the Discotheque Rabbi. One started asking about a non-Jewish girlfriend he was thinking about marrying, and if it was important or not to marry within his faith.
The group was on its way to a nightclub, so Grossman joined up with them later that evening, having first obtained a hanukkia and Hanukka candles.
“I entered the nightclub, with all the music and dancing and alcohol, and I found the group of youngsters I’d been talking to and we lit the hanukkia together, said the blessings and sang Maoz Tzur,” the rabbi recounted.
“I told the young man who had asked me about his girlfriend that he had grown up in the Land of Israel with his people, the people of Israel, but that now he had moved away from his roots, his land and his people,” he said.
“We sat in the club till four in the morning and I explained that Hanukka is the time to reconnect to our people and our heritage,” Grossman continued.
“I understand that he eventually returned to Israel.”