Latvia SIG #Latvia Chanukah in Latvia #latvia

Arlene Beare <arl@...>

I received a message recently asking why I was posting messages >from
Chabad as the impression of the writer was that they promoted a narrow 18thC
Judaism.I would like to say that I am not a member of the Chabad but I feel
a great sense of joy at the messages that I receive >from Rabbi Mordechai
Glazman. It seems to me that they are doing wonderful work.
There are other members of the Jewish community in Latvia that are not
members of Chabad and a few attend service on Friday night and on Rosh
Hashanah but they are few indeed. The education of the young as far as I
have been able to ascertain has been in the hands of the Chabad community.
I do not feel that I am promoting fundamentalism by posting these
heartwarming messages sent to us >from Latvia.
Arlene Beare
President Latvia SIG


Weeks before Chanukah, Chabad Lubavitch headed by Rabbi Mordechai Glazman,
made preparations to reach every Jew in Latvia. In Riga alone, over 1500
families received a mailing with a Chanukah brochure and invitation to
Chanukah events. Another 1000 Chanukah kits, including Menorahs and
candles, went out to Jews in various cities around the country.

Shoppers were certainly pleasantly surprised, when for the first time ever,
they found a lit Menorah in the storefront window of many stores and malls
in Riga. The idea has caught on and many have already made requests to be
included next year.

The first night of Chanukah, the children of Ohel Menachem Day School were
joined by parents, relatives and friends for an evening of song, dance, and
fun. Chanukah gelt, doughnuts and latkes were enjoyed, and then all
gathered outside for lighting at a 3 meter high Menorah in the front yard.
The Menorah faces a busy highway, causing the Miracle of Chanukah to be
publicized to thousands each day.

On Friday, school children visited the local Bikur Holim hospital. After a
short performance, the children distributed donuts and Chanukah cards that
they had made. Tears of happiness were shed that morning and even the staff
joined in to the celebration. The dreary place full of pain and sadness was
miraculously transformed.

This year, the public Menorah lighting in the center of Riga was especially
lively; even the weather couldn't dampen the enthusiasm. Tables were set up
with Judaica and many people acquired, beautiful Menorahs >from Israel,
greeting cards, books, etc. Hundreds of Menorahs, candles and dreidels were
bought and much free literature distributed.

Latvian TV documented the festival. Children recited passages of Torah and
entertained the crowd with Chanukah songs. All danced to traditional Jewish
music and sparklers brightened the scene. The 4 lights were kindled by an
honored guest- Arkadi Sucharenko of Rietumu Banka. The highlight was the
grand lottery for a free ticket to Israel, but everyone was a winner,
departing with warmth, a smile and a bright specially printed Chanukah balloon.

Chanukah gatherings and Menorah lightings were arranged in the cities of
Liepaja, Rezekne, Ludze and Ventspils. These small communities wait all
year for such visits, which bring them the light and joy of Judaism they so
sorely yearn for. In Ludze the emotional participants cried when it was
time for Rabbi to leave.

The hundreds of recipients of our Humanitarian Aid programs were filled
with joy when in addition to the regular packages and/or meals, they were
presented with Chanukah kits and the traditional holiday treats.

It was a full week of light in Latvia!