12/1/13 Milwaukee, Wisconsin
By Mikah Semon
Happy Hanukkah! I wanna give a gift to you! Light up the nights, my love shine through! Blaring from the back of the most flamboyant pickup truck that anyone in Milwaukee has ever seen, this song and the people singing very off-tune from within it truly made an impression on all the people we passed. Sometimes it would take them a second to realize that a dark green, and otherwise and an eight-foot menorah occupying the flatbed was passing them. They would look once and then quickly do a double take as if they didn’t believe their own eyes. In response to this, Maddie Met, program coordinator and a driving force behind Mequon, Wisconsin’s CTeen chapter, said, “Putting smiles on the faces of strangers was an out-of-this-world experience.”
On the Shabbos before Chanukah, November 23, Eric Rokni, a member of our local CTeen chapter, and Mendel Rapoport, a student in the New Haven zal, decided to have the best idea of their lives. “We actually pulled it off,” Eric exclaimed somewhat in disbelief after we finally put the finishing touches on our relatively ridiculous chariot of fire.
It all started with a five hour trip to Home Depot with four guys who had no idea what they doing. While it didn’t actually last five hours, the entire concept that we were actually taking the first steps toward our mammoth idea was unfathomable to all of us. In fact, our fearless leader, Rabbi Moshe Rapoport, was out of town while we started the ordeal. Just a few days later, on the first full day of Chanukah though, a larger than life dreidel towered over us on the roof of The Pelz Center for Jewish Life’s pickup truck.
Our mountainous masterpiece, if I do say so myself, presided over and carried the standard of our whole community’s Chanukah parade. When I asked the amazing Rabbi Moshe for his thoughts on why this parade was different than all other parades Moshe deplored that, “We weren’t just another car, we were the feature of the parade.” Exhilarating, being even a small part of such a last minute effort to make a feature for the celebration, I genuinely felt that the CTeen chapter that we’ve created here in Mequon and really the whole city of Milwaukee is an instrumental part of the Jewish community as a whole.
We had the “most teen participation we’ve ever had,” Rabbi Moshe said regarding this year’s Chanukah celebration, a reality that made the experience incredibly unique for all involved and bystanders couldn’t help but stare. Setting the tone for the day’s incredible events, I and many other teens from Milwaukee and from a variety of Jewish and public schools came together to begin the dancing at our first Menorah lighting location, and we didn’t really stop until the night ended and we were all too tired to stand. The glow of our faces and the fiery passion in our hearts made it a true festival of lights.
Happy Hanukkah! I wanna give a gift to you! Interminably stuck in my head, this song and many other Chanukah staples that sounded throughout the city on Sunday enveloped the spirit of the day. Maddie Met and so many other people expressed, “I never actually thought our plans would become reality.” I still barely believe the events of the past week happened at all, but the looks of joy, wonder, and awe that so many people, Jewish and non Jewish alike, directed at our beacon of pride suggest that it really did occur.
At the end of a long day of driving my giddy companions around the city, I realized that the impact we had on the town and the international community was incredible for an idea hatched four or so days before Chanukah. The WTMJ4 evening news agreed with me when they did a thirty-five second special on our celebration featuring the giant dreidel. Even so, the smiles on faces of people I’d never met before told the whole story much better than any news reporter ever could. Unified by our mission to make this Chanukah a brighter and more unforgettable experience than ever before, Our CTeen chapter truly let our love shine through and lit up the entire city. Light me up.