With the help of the Forsyth County Fire Department, on Tuesday the community of Congregation Beth Israel and Chabad Forsyth made it rain gold. Chocolate gold, that is.
In honor of the start of Hanukkah, local residents filled The Collection’s central park in south Forsyth, faces upturned, waiting in the light of a giant menorah as a fire department truck raised its ladder, lifting firefighters and 1,000 gold chocolate gelt coins high over the crowd.
After a short countdown backed by an upbeat soundtrack, the coins began falling in showers into outstretched hands and hats. Others chased the coins across the ground to eat and share with others on the third night of Hanukkah.
"It was unbelievable,” said Rabbi Levi Mentz of Congregation Beth Israel after the celebration. “The community unity was so impressive, so many people from all different walks of life, all different backgrounds, coming together in community unity. It was powerful.”
According to Mentz, the “mega Chanukah gelt drop” that they put on this year, in addition to their annual menorah lighting, is a way to hook residents in and share an additional message about the spirit of the holiday.
"The mega gelt drop was an amazing way for us to really highlight the power of giving charity in a very innovative and powerful way,” he said. "Everyone's cameras were out, watching, waiting to see what was going to happen … a lot of times we need innovative ways to remind ourselves what is important.”
This is the third time Chabad Forsyth and the Jewish community of Forsyth County has hosted their Hanukkah spectacular event at The Collection. But despite how well this and other congregation events always go, Mentz said they are constantly thinking about how to bring the community the best, most enjoyable experience.
With how bombarded people are by entertainment in their daily lives, he said they have to go big or go home, like with the gelt drop.
"We are dedicated to building community every day through a dazzling array of programs and services to serve everyone from all walks of life with unconditional love,” he said. “So if it's not going to be dazzling, we're not doing it and if it's not going to be inclusive, we're also not doing it."
After the event, Mentz said that he received several calls telling him that they felt so much love in the air, with people talking, eating and celebrating at the event.
This is how Mentz said he knows that his message is sinking in.
"It's very special, of course, to have all of Forsyth County represented, from the congressmen to the commissioners to the sheriff to Chief (Barry) Head from the fire department,” he said. “Literally united, everyone together and recommitting ourselves for a common call.”
Before the gelt drop, Mentz spoke and sang with the crowd as
three candles of the giant menorah were lit, imploring the crowd to see
themselves as menorahs in their own life, constantly giving and constantly
striving to do better and more.
"We need to see ourselves as menorahs; those that every day add light,” he said. "Always adding in goodness and kindness and light, always finding more ways to make this world a better place.”