Chabad’s Hanukkiah Lights up the Astana‚ Kazakhstan Skyline
Chabad of Lubavitch is excited about the new Hanukkiah that was installed last year in the center of Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital. Now more families can enjoy the festive holiday of Hanukkah.
Every Year Kazakhstan’s Capital City Lights up for Hanukkah
A joyful transition takes place each winter in Astana, as the Hanukkiah takes center stage in the Kazakhstan capital. The dark and cold days of December are replaced with the warm lights of the Menorah as the Jewish community celebrates Hanukkah, the holiday of remembering how sacred oil was found, returned to the Jewish Temple and miraculously burned for 8 days.
Chabad's Hanukkiah Connects Old and New
In 2006 the city of Astana was treated to a new and very large Hanukkiah which was placed in the most central location in Astana. Since then, every year the Hanukkiah is installed near the bridge that connects the Old City of Astana with the new, symbolizing how the story of Hanukkah connects the ancient past of the Jews to our modern times. The bridge serves as a very busy passageway, ensuring that the Hanukkiah is impossible to miss.
The Hanukkiah was donated to the local Chabad house by businessman Gil Smolinski, who has been taking care of its installation year in and year out for more than 10 years now. This year too the Hanukkiah will be brought out and lit, bringing hope and joy to the local community.
Smolinski has been a long-time supporter of Chabad in Astana. In addition to giving personal funds to support Chabad’s activities to improve Jewish life in Astana, he has successfully created important partnerships that are bringing attention to the significant work of Chabad of Lubavitch in Kazakhstan.
Electric Candles Extends the Time for Celebration
Smolinski also donated funds to convert the city's existing Hanukkiah, which sits in the courtyard of Beit Rachel Chabad Lubavitch Synagogue, to electricity. Former Astana Chabad Rabbi, Rabbi Yehuda Yom-Tov Kovalkin expressed special appreciation for the transition to electric lights. He observed that the month of December is one of the coldest times in Kazakhstan. Using traditional candles for a Menorah that is set outside on the city street would mean that the candles would be extinguished almost immediately after lighting. Electric candles allow for the Hanukkah celebration to extend well into the night, giving families ample time to come to the Beit Rachel courtyard for all the festivities.
The Chabad Shaliach to Kazakhstan’s capital city of Astana Rabbi Shmuel Karnaukh, who took over from Rabbi Kovalkin in 2017, is making sure that everyone celebrates the unique holiness and happiness of Hanukkah. Under his leadership, Beit Chabad Astana launched a special Hanukkah campaign which includes placing small Menorahs in storefronts, gas stations and distributing to private homes. As is a Chabad tradition with other holidays, they have gone mobile too, placing Menorahs and Hanukkah greetings on car rooftops.
A Jewish Revival in Kazakhstan
The installation of the Hanukkiah in the center of town every year, and the ongoing tradition of public celebration symbolize another chapter in the overall transformation of Kazakhstan as a place where Jewish worship and celebrations can be expressed openly and without fear of reprisal. For hundreds of years, such outward expressions of Judaism were forbidden. Today, thanks to the intense efforts of Chabad of Lubavitch and community leaders members such as Gil Smolinski and others, Jewish life is once again thriving in Kazakhstan.
7 Kislev 5779 (11/15/2018)