The event was organized by Rabbi Mendy Hecht and Rebbetzin Chaya Hecht of the Chabad of Forest Hills North in collaboration with Rabbi Mordechai Hecht of Anshe Shalom Chabad in Kew Gardens.
Children and adults danced with three dreidel mascots and two Chanukah clowns to music provided by DJ Jordan. JJ's Holy Cow Artisanal Burgers from Downtown Brooklyn sold burgers and fries, while complimentary traditional powdered sugar jelly donuts and chocolate custard donuts were provided courtesy of Chabad of Forest Hills North.
Officers from the 112th Precinct and Shmira of Queens helped at the event, and for the second year firefighters from Ladder 138 replaced the menorah’s electrical bulbs with oil canisters and wicks and hoisted the two rabbis in a cherry picker to light the menorah with a torch, beginning with the center candle.
“Rabbi Mendy Hecht’s and Rabbi Mordechai Hecht’s passion for Yiddishkeit and love for the community is palpable and contagious, creating an atmosphere that is truly electric,” said Richard Tuschman, who participated for the third consecutive year with his wife Ewa. “Coming together as a community, singing the beautiful prayers, and seeing the giant menorah lit and the flames dancing into the night sky, is a moving and unforgettable way to experience the Festival of Lights.”
For James Romano and his family, it was their first Chanukah on the Park celebration.
“Our children were mesmerized by the coin drop and really enjoyed watching the rabbis light the menorah from the fire truck,” he said. “This event was another chance to celebrate the great miracle with my close family, as well as our new friends from Chabad. Rabbi Mendy and his family have created a great atmosphere and a wonderful experience for all to enjoy.”
Rabbi Mendy Hecht thanked everyone who attended, and Rabbi Mordechai Hecht led the crowd in a blessing.
“Of course everyone is going to light their menorah in their homes, but we’re going to light the menorah to help spread the miracle of Chanukah,” Rabbi Mordechai Hecht said.
From over 30 feet, both rabbis took part in a 1,500-plus chocolate coin drop, also known as “Chanukah gelt.”
“Are we ready?” Rabbi Mordechai Hecht asked the crowd. “Watch your heads, watch your pockets, and pull out your plastic bags, your coats, and your hoods. When we see you dancing, we drop coins.”
The evening was full of many surprises.
“We had a raffle for a scooter worth over $150 based on all who RSVP’d,” said Rabbi Mendy Hecht. “The winner was a local who was present, and she was extremely excited and didn't even know there was a raffle.”
“We had a fire show featuring Keith Leaf, who is famous for his fire stunts worldwide,” he added. “To be able to pull this off is a huge miracle, and the force behind it is the Lubavitcher Rebbe OBM that gives us the spiritual strength and inspiration until this very day. I plan on making it even bigger and better next year, since we can’t stay in one place. We always have to grow.”
Rabbi Mendy Hecht recalled attending Chanukah on the Park at Caulfield Park in Melbourne, Australia, his native home.
“It was something that had a big impact on me,” he said. “Our goal is to continue to spread light in whatever way we can, and bring more morals and ethics to the people of Forest Hills and set an example of goodness and kindness for others to emulate. That is really the lesson of Chanukah.”
The menorah was sponsored by the Fischman family and Friends of Chabad of Forest Hills North, and the menorah high-riser was sponsored by Mark Weissman. Other sponsors included Michael Perlman Photography and videographers Leigh Harrison, Mara Cates, and Eric Schreiber.
“We had the honor to thank Officer Maser of the 112th Precinct and to have Deputy Inspector Ramos with us, as well as have the honor of Congresswoman Grace Meng,” Rabbi Mendy Hecht said. “The FDNY did it again, and even though they had another call, I must say our chief never lets us down and sent another Ladder from 138.”
Irit Diamant said people stand on the terraces of nearby apartment buildings to be part of the event.
“I lost my father a few months ago, and now as both my parents are deceased, I stood watching the candles being lit and all I thought about was how my parents tried to instill good Jewish values and to be an honorable citizen,” Diamant said. “I was sad and grateful, since I was there with my son Saphir, but longed for my parents.”
To keep Chanukah on the Park free, the public can donate by visiting chabadfhn.com/donate.