After flipping the switch for two annual tree-lighting ceremonies in Daley Plaza, Chicago's first Jewish mayor
"It's more personal," said Rabbi Meir Chai Benhiyoun, leader of Lubavitch Chabad of the Loop. "It's not business. It's not politics. He wants to do it."
The eight-day festival of lights, which begins at sundown on Saturday this year, commemorates the ancient miracle of how a day's worth of oil burned for eight days in the newly liberated temple of Jerusalem.
Benhiyoun said although kindling the flames normally involves lighting a wick soaked in oil or wax candles, flipping the switch on an electric menorah also fulfills "an integral part of the mitzvah of the menorah -- publicizing the miracle."
Thirty feet tall and 18 feet wide, Chicago’s candelabra required two cranes and a trailer to install earlier this week. Designed by the late Alfred Von Samek, it is a replica of the
Benhiyoun actually met Emanuel at the lighting of the White House menorah several years ago when Emanuel served as President
The city has issued permits this year for a variety of holiday displays in Daley Plaza -- both secular and religious, including a Santa house, a Nativity scene and a menorah.
Emily Soloff, associate director for interreligious and intergroup relations for the American Jewish Committee, applauded the mayor's decision to light up the plaza more than once.
"How wonderful and reflective of the diversity of the city that the mayor can both honor the Christian holiday and the Jewish holiday as well," she said. "The rabbinic view of the menorah is that it professes the miracle of the oil. Hanukkah's proximity to Christmas in America has lifted up the notion of religious freedom, that Hanukkah is a holiday that commemorates the mriacle of religious freedom."