Grasping their mother’s hands, the Gordon brothers, Yehuda, 4, and Nison, 6, tried to stay upright Sunday as they skated around the rink at the Long Beach Ice Arena. It was the first time the Cedarhurst boys had attempted ice skating.
“I like it, because it’s slippery,” said Nison, who fell moments later, but got right back up and kept skating.
The Gordons and the hundreds of other adults and kids who filled the ice rink Sunday night weren’t there just to skate. They were also celebrating the fifth night of the Festival of Lights.
Throughout the evening, they ate latkes and doughnuts, made Hanukkah crafts, skated to festive Jewish music and watched as a 7-foot-tall menorah was carved out of ice. Once the menorah was complete, it was moved to the center of the rink, where a crowd gathered to sing songs, pray and light the five candles that had been placed atop the ice carving.
“The idea of Hanukkah is fire, so we thought fire and ice, the combination goes really well together,” said Rabbi Eli Goodman, of Long Beach’s Bach Jewish Center, which has been hosting “Chanukah on Ice” for five years.
He said the event is a great way to bring together families from across the South Shore of Long Island to celebrate Hanukkah in a setting other than a synagogue.
“They want to come to something Jewish, but not too Jewish,” he joked. “Sometimes, to get the message out, you have to be a little bit creative to get people to participate.”
Goodman, 36, of Long Beach, said this year’s “Chanukah on Ice” was even more spirited since last year’s event had to be canceled because of superstorm Sandy. In Sandy’s wake, many local families including his own were displaced from their homes, and the ice arena was converted into a disaster recovery center.
“Last year, Hanukkah was a very difficult time of year, but now it’s important from a psychological point of view to get back into a routine,” he said.
Malka Guttman, 13, of Long Beach, said she had about 3 feet of water in her basement during Sandy and was displaced to Brooklyn for a few months, but is now back in her home. She attended her third “Chanukah on Ice” Sunday with family and friends.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said.
At the end of the night, each child also went home with a new toy and a commemorative $2 bill that indicated that this year, the second night of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fell on the same day. The two holidays will not intersect again for thousands of years.
Chani Gordon, Yehuda’s and Nison’s mother, said she plans to make “Chanukah on Ice” a tradition for her family going forward.
She added, “We love it.”