A sure sign that Hanukkah is on the horizon is the annual appearance of the giant 18-foot-tall freestanding dreidel alongside Valley Road outside the Chabad Jewish Center in Basking Ridge.
The structure has become a landmark in the community.
The dreidel, built 16 years ago by students at the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, is assembled and disassembled each year in the weeks leading up to and after Hannukah. The dreidel will be part of Chabad's scheduled events to celebrate Hannukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, which this year begins at sundown Saturday.
The Chabad center proudly points to its dreidel as the largest in the world. Youth Rabbi Yitzchok Moully said he has scoured the Internet looking for other examples, and has found that the dreidel commissioned by Chabad in Basking Ridge is the largest annual dreidel anywhere.
The dreidel has become a local landmark during the holiday season, according to Chabad.
"It's an icon," Moully said. "It tells people where we are and who we are."
Local children are invited to stop by to visit and bring home their own (much smaller) dreidel. For group tours and further details, call 908-604-8844 or visit Chabad's website.
The dreidel—a replica of the spinning top that is used in a game played during Hanukkah—also is used as part of the Hanukkah curriculum for both the Zimmer preschool and the new Olam Academy Jewish Day School, said Moully, who also is the center's programming director. Children from both schools, and children from the community, are invited inside to learn about the dreidel and its story, he said.
A dreidel is associated with the holiday of Hanukkah, which celebrates the victory of the Jewish army over their oppressors in ancient times.
This year, the dreidel was given a fresh coat of paint by the center’s Olam Academy students, Moully said. It was taken out of storage and assembled by community members over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Some of the inside walls already have been decorated by children, and students at the Olam Academy will paint a mural on the interior to brighten it up, Moully said. The students intend to paint on Thursday and Friday morning, weather permitting, he said.
The dreidel originally was commissioned so local Jewish children and their families could have their own holiday decoration.
"Jewish kids and their parents can drive by and say, 'There's our dreidel,' sharing the joy of the season," Moully said.
"The dreidel kindles a strong community spirit and ignites Jewish pride during this celebration of light’s victory over darkness," according to a release from Chabad.
On Dec. 12, everyone is invited to celebrate Hanukkah with the community, according to Chabad. The party from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. is titled “Chanukah with the Hoop Wizard," Moully said.
The party will include an amazing hoop show with a spinning of basketballs representing the menorah, he said. The celebration will include Hanukkah crafts, games and donuts and latkes, followed by a menorah lighting outside at the giant dreidel, he said.
There also will be a childrens' holiday Hanukkah party at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the center at 3048 Valley Road, Moully said.
Further information on Chabad's Hanukkah parties and menorah lightings in on the Chabad website.