Chanukah at Sports Stadiums All Over America: Nice Gestures Or a Victory for Yavan?


chanukah1From pre-game ceremonies to center-court celebrations, large-scale public Chanukah events will light up more sports stadiums and arenas across America than ever this year, part of Chabad’s worldwide Chanukah campaign, which is expected to reach an estimated 8 million Jews-more than half of the world’s Jewish population.

For the second year in a row, Chabad Lubavitch of Georgia will host a “Jewish Heritage Night” at the Atlanta Hawks’ Philips Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 23, at 7:30 p.m., and more than 1,000 people are expected to attend, according to Rabbi Isser New.

“The mitzvah of Chanukah is to publicize the miracle. This is a way to take that to the next level,” he says. “The message of Chanukah is the triumph of the minority; it’s an important and timeless message.”

At the game will be a kosher concession stand, as well as a “Family Fun Zone” with Chanukah-themed activities for children in one of the sections.

In Texas, Chabad Outreach of Houston will host “Hoops & Hanukkah” on Thursday, Dec. 18, with a menorah-lighting during halftime at the Houston Rockets vs. the New Orleans Pelicans basketball game.

“It’s an awesome medium to do it,” said Rabbi Mendy Traxler of Chabad Outreach of Houston, who will be lighting the menorah.

Chabad has been holding this program for about six years, and this year already sold 625 tickets, in addition to those who will otherwise be attending the game. The first 350 people who purchased tickets received free “Hoops & Hanukkah” T-shirts.

Before the game is a Chanukah-themed pregame party, beginning at 6 p.m., at Root Memorial Square Basketball Court across the street from the stadium, with a 6:10 p.m. outdoor menorah-lighting ceremony, adds Traxler. That’s in addition to the one inside the stadium.

At 10 p.m. after the game, Chabad ticket-holders will have the chance to go onto the court and make some “free throw” shots.

Part of the marketing for the event included a “Hoops & Hanukkah” Facebook page, where the more than 1,200 people have been invited.

“Houston is a great community,” he says. “The event is a great chance to bring people together to celebrate Chanukah and build Jewish pride.”

Chabad centers around the world will set up more than 15,000 large public menorahs. Public lightings and Chanukah events will be held in more than 80 countries around the world.

Additionally, 5,000 menorah-topped cars are expected on the roads this year, creating holiday awareness in cities, towns and rural areas.

Events will be featured on the world’s largest Chanukah-event directory at The directory features events in 400 cities, and is constantly being updated.

In South Florida, the professional basketball team the Miami Heat will host a Chabad menorah-lighting ceremony on the court between the first and second periods on Wed., Dec. 17. Nearly 20,000 people are expected to be there that evening.

The Florida Panthers, a professional ice-hockey team in Sunrise, Fla., will host a Chabad-run menorah-lighting on the ice and a concert at halftime on Tues., Dec. 16.

And in New York, CTeen-Chabad’s global Teen Network-has what promises to be another exciting “Jewish Heritage Night” in the works for the entire family as the Brooklyn Nets gear up for their third season in their new home at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

This year’s event will take place on Sunday, Dec. 21, at 5:30 p.m., on the sixth night of Chanukah and the first day of winter. Building on the turnout of last year’s Jewish Heritage debut at the Barclays Center, organizers expect more than 6,000 Jewish attendees out of a total capacity of about 20,000 spectators.

Chanukah events will be hosted at other arenas across the United States, including the NBA stadiums of the Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, and Dallas Mavs, as well as the NHL arenas of the Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In 1987, Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus, co-director of Chabad of South Broward in Hallendale, Fla., was the first Chabad emissary to light a menorah at a sporting event, during halftime of a Miami Dolphins football game at what was then called the Joe Robbie Stadium. More than 75,000 fans were on hand, and both teams were on the field during the 15-minute Chanukah ceremony.

“Baruch Hashem, by now, shluchim are doing this at sporting events around the world,” says Tennenhaus.

He estimates out of the total number of fans that day, about 20,000 of them were Jewish.

“Even 27 years later, people still come over to me and ask if I was the guy who lit the menorah at the stadium,” says the rabbi.

These days, one of the biggest events in his locale is the 35th Annual South Florida Chanukah Festival on Monday, Dec. 22, at 7 p.m., at Gulfstream Horse-Racing Park in South Hallandale, Fla. It will feature popular musical entertainer Avraham Fried.

For the sixth year in a row, Chabad of Nashville, Tenn., will host a menorah-lighting during halftime of the Nashville Predators ice-hockey game, at the Bridgestone Arena in front of 17,000 fans on Tuesday, Dec. 16, at 6:30 p.m.-the first night of Chanukah.

“The sense of Jewish pride and respect is immense, and it always brings about great exposure for what we try to do on Chanukah, which is to share and spread the light,” says Rabbi Yitzchok Tiechtel, co-director of Chabad of Nashville, who every game there wears a Predators jersey with the word “Rabbi” on the back.

Last year, the arena replayed the menorah-lighting on the Jumbotron later during the game; this year, the enormous screen will feature the words to Chanukah songs.

“The whole crowd was going crazy,” he recalls. “The city is so respectful. There’s no greater sense of Jewish pride than lighting a giant menorah in front of thousands of cheering fans.”

On Monday, Dec. 22, the seventh night of Chanukah, co-director of Chabad of S. Francisco Rabbi Yosef Langer, and Rabbi Dovid Labkowski, co-director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Oakland, Calif., will light the menorah outside the Golden State Warriors’ basketball stadium in Oakland.

They’re organizing a Chanukah celebration with Jewish music, latkes and sufganiyot (jelly donuts) in front of Oracle Arena as the Warriors prepare to face off against the Sacramento Kings. This is in addition to the annual outdoor public menorah-lighting on the first night of the holiday-on the six-foot menorah provided by the Bill Graham Menorah Project and sponsored by Norman Krug, who is affiliated with the S. Francisco Chabad.

This is their first Chanukah holding such an event, which came together with the help of Langer’s friend and Chabad supporter Howard Sapper, who helped promote the idea to the Warriors.

The 7:30 p.m. event is part of a longtime larger “Jewish Heritage Night” concept the rabbi helped jump-start at area sporting events. Known as the “Rally Rabbi,” he first started Jewish outreach at games eight years ago, when some friends asked him to organize such a program at the San Francisco Giants game.

For the Chanukah event, Langer plans to be there with his black-and-burgundy mitzvah bike, a motorcycle he bought years ago at an auction and had refurbished.

There’ll be at least 1,000 kosher doughnuts and latkes for sale at the event, which will be held outside the stadium’s main entrance. “People passing through are going to stop by-the latkes alone are very inviting,” he entices.

More than just food and festivities, he says there’s a message that he hopes speaks to passers-by, which should include the game’s 600-plus ticket-holders.

That message, according to Langer, is “that a little light pushes away a lot of darkness; that everyone is free to practice and have a relationship with G‑d; and that miracles are not passé. They’re still within our grasp.”

He stops for a moment, and then adds: “And to be open and inclusive. This is something not just exclusive for Jewish people; this is something the whole world can take part of, and light up their lives, and the lives of their families and communities with the message of Chanukah.”


{ Newscenter}


  1. Victory for Yavan.

    The goyim in the stand hate us all the more because we are stealing the spotlight from them. A Jew belongs in front of a Chanukkah Menorah in a Makom Kadosh, not a sports stadium filled with Tumah.

  2. In kiruv, there is a balance between communication and principles. some tends to lean more towards the former to achieve the latter, while other kiruv organizations refuse to compromise the latter, even if they don’t achieve the former.

    Kiruv is not a sales job, it is an educational and role-model job. And the educator and role-model is not required to compromise on his behavior or comportment as a Ben Torah.

  3. Yavan all the way. Very slick and sly the way they try to make you believe otherwise, but any bar seichel can read through the lines and come to the same conclusions.

  4. The Mitzvah of Chanukah is “parsumey Nisa” to publicize the miracle. There is nothing “Yavan” about that. If you can light a menorah at a sports event where it will be seen by thousands of Jews this is a Kiddush Hashem.

  5. Silly question. It is obvious that your title, Matzav, is only to encourage more machlokes and sinas chinam. I would suggest that you only look for the good in all Jews. It may just bring Moshiach a little bit closer.

  6. It would be a good thing if (when) it would promoted only to (or even mainly to)irreligious and unaffiliated Jews but here in Miami it is promoted to the otherwise frum community. In fact many good people only attend such sporting events on Chanukah due to ‘Jewish’ advertising given to the Heat! How ironic. BTW some of the food may be kosher but the entertainment is anything but kosher. It

  7. Shame on Matzav for the ludicrous comparison. Yavan would be to encourage sports for the sake of sports. Chabad goes there to reach souls that have been lost. That’s fighting against yavan and saving spiritual lives!

  8. Contrary to what well meaning, but misguided, Chabadniks want people to believe, Chazal instituted a method for Chanukah lighting — nair ish u’baiso. The holiday is l’hodos u’lhallel — to thank and praise HKB”H. It is also for increased limud haTorah.

    If all of the money and effort that goes into events such as:

    public city menorah lightings,
    menorah lightings at sports games and
    Chanukah parades (complete with “menorahs on the roof”), etc.,

    would go into limud HaTorah, mashiach would arrive a lot faster.

  9. Respectful for the court or for the holiday.

    The super sized menorahs remind us that man is less than the dynasty.

    One thing I might add is that the world of a supersized menorah seems like a rapture of lost planning. When a menorah is bigger than the size of a man, the reality is that hannukah becomes a dice game and not a real celebration of lights.

    Take mabus and divide it into ten pieces. Then you get the chabad.

    A daring attempt to make sugar more important than spice.

    Sorry folks, I will stick to the midrash


  10. I like how this article just prints the facts and allows the readers to conclude on their own. As a member of a school that is promoting a local Chanukah in a stadium event, I am conflicted. The question I have, is are there any stats as to whether the event does anything more than make people feel good; does it bring anyone closer to Hashem and Torah and Mitzvos?

  11. Yavan entirely….the pritzus at these events alone should keep all Torah yidden away. Why do they go? Why spend money on these events when so many Torah families could use the help?

  12. Total bunch of Apikursus. The message of Chanuka is not the “triumph of the minority” or “jewish pride” or whatever feel-good politically correct fad is in style. It’s about the triumph of Ruchniyus over Gashmiyus and the strict adherence to the Dvar Hashem. And that includes doing the Mitzva exactly and only in the way that Chazal were mesakein. Anything else is Shtusim.

  13. with all the bad feelings and anti Israel propaganda around the world maybe this will counter and eliminate some anti Semitism with goodwill and latkes

  14. not really sure its fair to compare a basketball game to Greek Hellenism. at worst its kalus rosh but one doesn’t need to go to a basketball game to achieve that.

  15. To participate in these sports/theaters which are run by Goyim, is exactly what the Yevanim want. We have to make a strong Hevdel from Chukas Hagoyim.

  16. Firstly there is a mitzva of pirsumai nisa on it’s own and as for ppl being mekarev to Torah and mitzvos OF COURSE as the story goes that a little girl 5 yrs old once came home from Hebrew school and decided that she would light Shabbat candels every Friday afternoon. Her mother saw this and said how can I not light Shabbat candles if my 5 yr old is. One thing led to another and the whole family became shomer Shabbat.

  17. actually, in al hannisim it says rabim biyad miatim. you guys are so foolish and hateful. go to any serious shiur and they discuss the meaning of chanukah in full toichen.
    a little bit of basic humility please!

  18. The self-centeredness of many posters is a sad thing to see. Do you not realize how this is the only venue to reach tens of thousands of Jews who have otherwise not lit Chanukah Menorahs? Do they not realize how non-religious kids who’ve been bombarded with Kratzmach things everywhere they turn take pride in the Menorah, which may help keep them connected to Judaism? No, they probably just don’t care. Comment 16 is right, he just doesn’t know by how much he is.