Westfield’s Worldwide Chanukah

December 15, 2011 by Henry Benjamin
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A chance conversation between Westfield’s Steven Lowy and Sydney’s The Central Synagogue’s Rabbi Levi Wolff will see the shopping centre giant welcoming Chanukah in its centres on three continents.Shopping centres in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia are being brought in contact with the nearest Jewish community in the initiative which has seen Rabbi Wolff sweep the Chabad network to its limit.

Rabbi Levi Wolff and the Central Synagogue Menorah

Rabbi Wolff told J-Wire that the spirit of Chanukah was to bring light to all communities. He said that 213 years ago today Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi was released from jail. The author of the Shulchan Aruch had been arrested on charges of spying for the Ottoman Empire. Attributed with being the founder of the Chabad movement, Rabbi Schneur Zalman advocated that learning should be for everyone and not confined to the mystics of the day. He based this on the following parable…A king had an only son who became ill and all the attending doctors were at a loss of how to heal him. A wise person understood the only possible cure. He told the king that he would have to desecrate the royal crown by removing its most precious jewel. This would have to be ground up and fed to the king’s son. The king regretted the loss to his majesty but immediately agreed that the life of his son was more important. The jewel was ground and the solution was fed to the son. Most of the cure fell to the ground, but the son received a few drops and became cured. Concluded Schneur Zalman in defence of Hasidic dissemination, the king represents God, and the son represents the Jewish community, who recognise the “God of Israel”. At the time of the emerging Hasidic movement, the Jewish people were at a physical and spiritual low ebb. The only cure would be the dissemination of the inner Divine teachings of Hasidic thought. Even though this would also involve their desecration, this would fully be justified in order to heal the people. The accusing student of the Maggid realised the wisdom of this, and agreed with Schneur Zalman. When the Maggid heard about this, he told Schneur Zalman that “you have saved me from the Heavenly accusation”.

Rabbi Levi Wolff said that Judaism teaches that knowledge is the jewel and the move to bring Chanukah into shopping malls will bring awareness not only to the Jewish world but to the wider community through the observance of the seven laws of Noah:

  1. Prohibition of Idolatry
  2. Prohibition of Murder
  3. Prohibition of Theft
  4. Prohibition of Sexual immorality
  5. Prohibition of Blasphemy
  6. Prohibition of eating flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive
  7. Establishment of courts of law

Steven Lowy 2nd right opens Sydney's Westfield Pitt St Mall

Rabbi Wolff told J-Wire: “We have been taught to ignite the lights of people who find synagogues intimidating and non-Jews who have a role to play in observing the seven laws of Noah by lighting the candles in public. There is no doubt that what Westfield has done around the world by encouraging their shopping centres they are going to bringing awareness to tens of thousands of Jews and raise interest in the non-Jewish community  through which our rabbis will explain the seven Noachide Laws.”

He added: “This is nothing about Judaism…it’s all about humanism.”

He added: “Chanukah and the Noachide Laws will hopefully bring light into the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world….Jew and non-Jew alike.”

A spokesperson for Westfield told J-Wire that the concept was underway and final figures of the number of malls participating is not yet known…but confirmed that three continents are involved. Westfield said: “The centres are currently working with their local synagogues to establish relationships and celebrate Chanukah in our centres.  Chanukah will be celebrated across 3 continents and Rabbi Wolff is helping to establish these relationships and expand the celebrations across a number of Westfield centres.”



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