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14th Annual ‘Fire on Ice’ Chanukah Celebration Ignites at West Hartford Town Hall

Jeffrey Hoffman lit the first Chanukah candle on the Fire on Ice menorah. Photo by Nick Caito

A large crowd enjoyed the celebration in West Hartford on the first night of Chanukah.

A crowd of more than 1,000 attended the 14th annual “Fire on Ice” Chanukah celebration at West Hartford’s Town Hall. Photo by Nick Caito

By Stacey Dresner

A huge crowd cheered “Happy Chanukah!” and dozens in their cars honked their horns as Chabad of Greater Hartford’s 14th annual “Fire on Ice” Chanukah celebration ignited on Sunday evening, Nov. 28.

More than 1,000 attended this “in-person” and “drive-in” event held on the first night of the eight-day Festival of Lights in West Hartford’s Town Hall parking lot.

Chabad of Greater Hartford Director Rabbi Joseph Gopin enjoying Yoni Z’s performance. Photo by Nick Caito

For over a decade Fire on Ice Chanukah took place at nearby Blue Back Square with large crowds standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Last year due to COVID-19, the celebration was moved to Town Hall with the majority of attendees staying in their cars to ensure a safe and comfortable Chanukah celebration for all.

While some remained in their cars, this year’s celebration was more relaxed as the majority of attendees joyously gathered together in-person after nearly two years of COVID restrictions.

Fire on Ice organizer, Rabbi Shaya Gopin. Photo by Nick Caito

“It is extra special to be gathered here, all of us as one community, especially after so much separation over the last 18 months … to celebrate the power of light, the power of warmth, the theme of Chanukah, which is that we can all spread light, warmth and goodness in our environment,” said Rabbi Shaya Gopin, organizer of the event, who thanked the Town of West Hartford, the West Hartford Police and Fire Departments and the West Hartford Public Works Department for helping to make this year’s Fire on Ice at Town Hall possible.

A giant LED screen allowed everyone – including those watching from their cars – to see and “be a part of” all of the on-stage activities, including the carving of the giant ice menorah displayed and lit each year.

After Chabad’s youth and Hebrew school director Rabbi Yehuda Matusof warmed up the crowed with a fun and fast-paced Chanukah Game Show, David Waren, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, gave a message thanking Chabad for bringing the Chanukah event to the community and for their work in West Hartford over the past 40 years “illuminating our community with the light of Torah and mitzvah (good deeds).”

Rabbi Yehuda Matsuof of Chabad led the Chanukah Game Show. Photo by Nick Caito

Community member Jeffrey Hoffman joined Gopin on stage to light the first Chanukah candle on the ice menorah, followed by a performance by singer Yoni Z, who rocked the crowd.

Menorahs and Chanukah kits were distributed throughout the crowd, potato latkes and hot drinks from Starbucks were enjoyed and children and families participated in a variety of Chanukah activities during the holiday celebration.

Singer Yoni Z rocked the crowd during his Fire on Ice performance. Photo by Nick Caito

And of course, children of all ages collected Chanukah gelt and other treats sprinkled down from the top of a fire truck ladder by the West Hartford Fire Department during the annual “Great Chanukah Gift Drop.”

“Chanukah is a very special holiday – a holiday that can bring light to our life,” said Rabbi Joseph Gopin, director of Chabad of Greater Hartford. “Chanukah is a reminder, an inspiration, and an empowerment [telling us] we have the power to make this world full of light, happiness and joy and health. We can do it. Let’s do it! Happy Chanukah to all of you!”

David Waren, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford gave a shout out to Chabad during his Chanukah message. Photo by Nick Caito

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