Chabad of Greater Hartford’s annual Chanukah celebration will be held on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, and will include activities for all ages, and children are invited to enter an art contest in advance. [Updated]
By Ronni Newton
An enormous crowd is expected to attend this year’s “Fire on ICE” event, which will be held in the heart of West Hartford Center and celebrate not just Chanukah but also mark “Hakhel,” the Jewish year of gatherings which takes place every seven years.
For more than a decade Fire on ICE, which is sponsored by Chabad of Greater Hartford, was held in the courtyard of Blue Back Square, with shoulder-to-shoulder crowds overflowing onto nearby roadways. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was relocated to the Town Hall parking lot in 2020 and 2021, but relocating it to LaSalle Road – where the roadway will be closed to vehicle traffic – will not only allow ample space but will also provide greater visibility.
“It is beautiful to see how ‘Fire on ICE’ has grown in our town,” said West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor. “It’s a testament to the diversity and communal nature of West Hartford. Bringing the event to LaSalle Road will add to the vibrancy of our town center.”
Rabbi Shaya Gopin of Chabad of Greater Hartford, the event organizer, said Fire on ICE will be even bigger and better this year to mark “Hakhel,” a once-in-seven-years Jewish tradition where gatherings for unity and purpose are held throughout the year.
“The event has greater significance following the past two years of the pandemic,” Gopin said. “There’s a greater need and appreciation to be able to gather once again as a community and celebrate together with a sense of purpose.”
Fire on ICE will begin at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 18, which is the first night of the eight-day Chanukah holiday.
The celebration will also include the sculpting of a giant menorah from a raw block of ice, and lighting of the candles.
“The menorah serves as a symbol of light and hope for us today, as it did for generations before us,” said Gopin. “The flames of the menorah shine out into the night, reminding us that even when confronted with much darkness, a tiny light can dispel it all. Another act of goodness and kindness, another act of light, can make all the difference.”
Gopin said the event will also be an opportunity to promote Jewish pride, in the face of increased antisemitism. “As the Rebbe – Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory – would often teach, the menorah is a reminder that light can be brought to the darkest of times, and uniquely, at the core of the holiday’s observance is sharing the light with others who may not be experiencing it,” Gopin said.
As part of the theme of spreading light and goodness, children are encouraged to participate in the “Be the Light” art contest, to create their artistic rendition of the theme: “A little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness – I can be the light by spreading goodness!” According to Gopin, “The objective is to encourage children to think how they can make a difference in their environment and see themselves as ambassadors of light and goodness.
Eligible art projects include paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, or cartoons. The winning entry – which will be announced at Fire on ICE, will have the opportunity to be the cover of West Hartford Magazine, and will also be featured on We-Ha.com. To enter the art contest, send a photo(s) of the art to [email protected] by Monday, Dec. 12. Please include the child’s full name, age, inspiration/explanation of the art, and contact information.
At the Fire on ICE event, there will be a “Light Up Wall,” where participants will have the opportunity to fill out a “flame” with a good deed that will be added (with an actual LED light) to the wall.
“For a child to celebrate publicly and proudly in the center of their town, has a great impact on a child’s identity and sense of Jewish pride,” Gopin said. “This also says something about the beauty of our diverse town and community.”
Lee Gold, chairman of the board of Chabad, praised the choice of a high profile location like LaSalle Road as the site for this year’s event. ”This opportunity will help connect the people of West Hartford and surrounding towns of all denominations.”
West Hartford Police are working with organizers to ensure the safety of those in attendance, and a strong security presence – both uniformed and in plain clothes – will be onsite, and surveillance will also be in place.
Fire on ICE will also include the long-standing “Great Chanukah Gift Drop” held in collaboration with the West Hartford Fire Department, which will sprinkle small gifts and chocolate coins from the top of an extended ladder from one of their fire trucks. Children of all ages are encouraged to collect the treats as they “rain” down from above.
Other event activities, geared toward all ages, include:
- Trackless train
- Hot drinks
- Food for sale
- Free door gifts and prizes
- Arts and crafts
- Glow-in-the-dark face painting
“Everyone regardless of religious affiliation can draw inspiration from Chanukah,” said David Waren, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. “Its message that a little bit of light – of goodness, kindness, righteousness – dispels much darkness resonates deeply today. The Jewish Federation is proud to join with Chabad and all of our neighbors, to help bring even more light, more goodness, to our wonderful community.”
The event is open to people of all backgrounds, and there is no cost to attend. Advance registration is encouraged and those planning to attend can RSVP at www.FireonICE.info.
Hakhel – The Jewish Year of Gatherings
In ancient Israel, every 7 years, Jewish people of all ages were commanded to gather and reconnect with one another in the holy temple, in Jerusalem, and hear the king read the Torah scroll (Jewish Bible). It was a display of unity and a statement of purpose to revitalize and refocus an increasingly diverse people.
Throughout the State of Connecticut Chabad will be organizing giant menorah displays and public menorah lightings and more. To find a local event in Connecticut, or practically anywhere throughout the world, visit the international Hanukkah event directory at www.ChabadHartford.com/103839
About Chabad of Greater Hartford
Chabad of Greater Hartford offers Jewish education, outreach and social service programming for families and individuals of all ages, backgrounds and affiliations. For more information, contact Rabbi Shaya Gopin, Chabad House of Greater Hartford, at 860-232-1116 or visit www.chabadhartford.com.
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, begins this year on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 18. It recalls the victory of a militarily weak Jewish people who defeated the Syrian Greeks who had overrun ancient Israel and sought to impose restrictions on the Jewish way of life and prohibit religious freedom. They also desecrated and defiled the Temple and the oils prepared for the lighting of the menorah, which was part of the daily service. Upon recapturing the Temple only one jar of undefiled oil was found, enough to burn only one day, but it lasted miraculously for eight. In commemoration, Jews celebrate Chanukah for eight days by lighting an eight-branched candelabrum known as a menorah. Today, people of all faiths consider the holiday a symbol and message of the triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter, of light over darkness. Additional information about the Hanukkah holiday is available at www.ChabadHartford.com/Hanukkah.
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