Operation Hanukkah - 405 Magazine

Operation Hanukkah

Berel Namdar and Zalman Minkowitz flew to Oklahoma City last December on a mission - with only eight days to complete it. It's a story of awareness and symbolism and generosity, but can be summed up in two words: "Menorah Mobile."

Berel Namdar and Zalman Minkowitz flew to Oklahoma City last December on a mission. And only eight days to complete it.

They were ready.

Dark suits? Check. Yarmulkes? Affirmative. Beards? Dashing. Hanukkah kits? Hundreds.

With no time to lose, they only needed a steely steed to light their way:

To the Menorah Mobile!

OK, perhaps the drama wasn’t dialed up to 11, but the “Menorah Men” were quick.

“The day we landed at the airport, within an hour we had our menorah car up – straight into action,” Namdar said.

Namdar, now a rabbi, was a rabbinical student last Hanukkah when he and Minkowitz roved streets and highways in a white Toyota sedan. Strapped above their heads like a glowing white halo was an LED-lit menorah proclaiming “Happy Chanukah!”

In Oklahoma, two smiling Hasidic Jews driving a Hanukkah car will draw a passel of stares and friendly trucker horns. Namdar will be back to repeat the feat December 8-16, aiming to double the number of visits with Jews and anyone else interested in their message.

Their mission is to spread the story and joy of Hanukkah, the eight-day holiday that commemorates the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple by the Maccabees after their victory over the Syrians.

“Hanukkah is to spread the light and connect people to the goodness that everyone has within them,” Namdar said. “The candle of the menorah represents that a little bit of light can defy much darkness… in essence, everyone has that candle within them.”

Namdar is part of the 250-year-old Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement, based in Brooklyn. Last Hanukkah, OKC’s Chabad Community Center and the Richard and Glenna Tanenbaum Family Foundation sponsored the outreach.

Namdar and a partner will hand out menorah kits with a small aluminum menorah, candles, a dreidel toy and gelt – chocolate coins with gold-colored wrappers. They went through more than 450 boxes last year.

On their way back to Oklahoma City from Seminole, a lanky pickup driver was apparently flabbergasted by the Menorah Mobile.

“We see this pickup truck driving next to us and he kept on looking. And by every red light he kept on staring,” Namdar said.

“So we rolled down our window. We’re like, ‘Hey, how you doing? Would you like a menorah?’ He’s like, ‘Really? You want to give me a menorah?’ We gave him one through the window actually.”

During a parking-lot talk, they found out the pickup driver was a Jew without a faith community. On a different visit, a mother wasn’t planning to celebrate Hanukkah with her children until she met Namdar and Minkowitz.

Sounds like mission accomplished.

For more information, visit jewishokc.com