FAIRLAWN: Five hundred kosher doughnuts, shaped into a 5-foot menorah, were used to represent the importance of religious freedom Tuesday in the food court at Summit Mall.
“Our tradition requires Hanukkah to be celebrated in public. We light a public menorah to illuminate the darkness. It symbolizes a miracle of being brought out of oppression and the victory of light over darkness,” said Kaila Sasonkin, coordinator of Hanukkah at the Mall. “We chose to use doughnuts this year to create some excitement because it’s something different, and they tie in so well with the message of the holiday.”
Doughnuts are a traditional Hanukkah food because the pastries are fried in oil, and the holiday commemorates an ancient miracle in which one day’s supply of oil lasted for eight.
Hanukkah, which began at sunset Nov. 27, ends Thursday. It celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian-Greek army and the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago and recalls the struggles of Jewish people to retain their identity and faith.
During Hanukkah, Jewish people light a candle on the menorah for eight nights. They also recite prayers and sing. The menorah candles represent the Jewish values of freedom, family, study of the Torah, hope, charity, peace, brotherhood and faith.
In Jewish culture, the public celebration of Hanukkah is tied to the tradition of lighting the menorah where everyone can see it. The public gathering also serves as a way to unite the Jewish community.
Hanukkah, also known as the festival of lights, is one of Mallory David's favorite times of year.
Mallory, 16, volunteered to build the giant donut menorah for Tuesday’s event. Her job entailed meticulously stacking jelly-filled doughnuts to create the base of the menorah and carefully positioning glazed doughnuts to create the legs and candle sticks.
“I love Hanukkah. The story is great, the food is always good and you get presents,” said Mallory, a junior at Copley High School. “This celebration is always special because we get to come together as one big Jewish community. It makes me feel connected, and it gives us a chance to share some of our customs and beliefs with other people. It’s just fun!”
In addition to the menorah — made of doughnuts purchased from Unger’s Kosher Bakery & Food in Cleveland Heights — the Hanukkah at the Mall event included a second menorah made from hundreds of cans of food. The “Canorah,” which is disassembled after the celebration and donated to the Akron-Canton Regional FoodBank, became part of the public celebration three years ago and is becoming a tradition.
“Once you start a good thing, you don’t want to stop,” Sasonkin said. “Hanukkah is a time to spread miracles. The Canorah is one way that our community is taking physical action to make others’ lives brighter. It is a reminder of the Hanukkah message that we can change the world and make it a better place by doing small acts of kindness.”
The local event began in 1989 at Anshe Sfard (Revere Road Synagogue), where Sasonkin’s husband, Rabbi Mendy Sasonkin, is the spiritual leader. A year later, the celebration was moved to Summit Mall, where it consistently attracts more than 300 people who take part in singing, dancing, playing dreidels, eating latkes and doughnuts and witnessing the public lighting of a menorah.
Hanukkah at the Mall is sponsored by Chabad of Akron/Canton, Anshe Sfard Synagogue, the Shaw Jewish Community Center, Temple Israel, The Lippman School and Jewish Family Service.