Over the past 24 hours, nearly 2,000 young Shluchim and…
When the Washington Commanders go head to head with the New York Giants on the first night of Chanukah, CTeen International and Chabad of Maryland will be there to orchestrate Sunday Night Football’s first-ever menorah lighting. With sixty-two 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 Chanukah’s light at a time when popular culture reels from antisemitism.
It wasn’t until last Monday, December 5, that the Giants and Commanders’ match-up was moved to Sunday night. In light of a nail-biting tie game, the December 18 re-match between the two football franchises will determine which of the rival teams will head to the NFL playoffs and will take place at FedEx Field, just outside Washington, DC.
CTeen and Chabad of Maryland were in talks to bring a menorah lighting to the game, but the game’s last-minute move to America’s most-watched television slot meant that CTeen had less than two weeks to prepare for prime time.
But plans quickly took shape. 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 they’ll 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.
There will be sixty-two thousand east-coast fans present at FedEx Field, when the Menorah is lit. “It’s a truly unprecedented opportunity to share the warmth and light of Chanukah,” says Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky of CTeen International.
The menorah lighting carries on a tradition initiated by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the 1970s to celebrate Chanukah through public menorah lightings. By publicizing the Chanukah miracle, these public celebrations aim to encourage Jews to take pride in their Judaism, and share Chanukah’s message of the power of light over darkness with a wide audience.
CTeen worked with the Washington Commanders to arrange the public lighting in honor of the Hakhel year, and Rabbi Kotlarsky says the timing couldn’t be better. “There are Jewish teens who are feeling uneasy lately,” he says, “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 the little bit of light that illuminates the darkness.”