I got my traditional pre-Chanukah call from Rabbi Kanelsky of Bris Avrohom this past Sunday night. He was calling to invite me to participate in my annual trip to join him on one of the 141 menorah lightings that he does throughout the tristate area in public locations and areas such as all our local airports, train stations, bridges etc. In years past I have visited exotic locations such as Newark’s Penn Station, the George Washington Bridge and all its tollbooth plazas, and other interesting places. I also have had a chance to meet some very interesting local leaders, executives and members of law enforcement, and of course to see how respected and connected Rabbi Kanelsky is. This year would be no exception.
When I picked up the phone, Rabbi Kanelsky told me to report to Building 1 at Newark Liberty Intl. Airport at 8:30 a.m. the next day, Monday morning. He let me know that I was being given a special honor this year in being invited to the first lighting, the “tiftach,” as he referred to it. He also explained that he and Bris Avrohom were going to be lighting a record 141 menorahs this year throughout the tristate area.
While I have heard of Terminal A, B, and C, I had never heard of Building 1 before, and as Waze took me to the north side of the airport, I pulled up in front of a beautiful Art Deco building that looked like it partially belonged in Miami. This landmark building also serves as the Port Authority police headquarters, the airport administration offices, the airport operations center and the location of the rescue and firefighting departments. As it turns out, the building I walked into was also Newark’s original first main terminal dating back to the mid-1930s.
Although the pictures here do not do it justice, just walking into the first floor felt like walking back in time to an earlier era of aviation and travel, with polished marble floors and columns and a good number of helpful and info-packed exhibits and memorabilia about Newark Airport’s history. As a bit of an old aviation buff, I really enjoyed it, and if you are interested in learning more about what I saw, visit this site: https://tinyurl.com/582df3mr.
Upon entering, I was immediately introduced by Rabbi Kanelsky to the general manager of the airport, Jim Gill, and the Port Authority Police Commander Kevin Fowler. Both before and after the lighting I spoke with both and enjoyed hearing about their backgrounds. GM Gill let me know that he came from Pittsburgh and had worked at airports of all sizes throughout his career. He explained that while he came from an accounting background, one could get a formal degree in aviation management today. Cmdr. Fowler let me know that he came to the Port Authority after reaching the rank of captain in the New Jersey State Police and that most of the Port Authority’s officers came to the force after reaching a high rank in area police departments.
Finally, when it came time to light, Rabbi Kanelsky called upon the senior leaders there to each light one light…and he spoke about the importance of the mitzvah of ner Chanukah to the Jewish people and the world at large. He also graciously thanked the Port Authority for all they do to help him on his mission of placing menorahs in so many locations. He also joked that his wife, Rebbetzin Shterney Kanelsky, was leaving to Florida in an hour and asked if they could delay the plane to make sure she would make it in time
GM Gill spoke and thanked Rabbi Kanelsky in return for all he does in bringing the menorahs, and how proud he and his team at the Port Authority are in hosting the menorahs every year. I have always been impressed at how special, warm and deeply personal the rabbi’s relationship is with the Port Authority and I saw it again this past Monday morning. And of course, no menorah lighting that Rabbi Kanelsky ever does is without Chanukah doughnuts…and he happily handed out a dozen or two doughnuts.
On my way out and shortly after, I caught up with Rabbi Kanelsky’s son, Rabbi Avremy. He was proud to tell me that after a lot of effort and coordination, there were now menorahs at Terminal C in Newark. Because that terminal is owned and operated by United exclusively and not by the Port Authority, the rabbi and his team had to build new relationships and connections within United, which they painstakingly did, and the result is that this year there are three menorahs in the large Terminal C building.
He also shared with me that while he was there he was approached by a Jewish employee of United who asked to put on tefillin and who explained that Rabbi Kanelsky had made his day a very special one, and asked that they look him up whenever he is there. (See pic above of the Kanelskys and the United employee wearing tefillin.)
All in all it was a very special pre-Chanukah morning at Port Authority headquarters at Newark Liberty International Airport!
Best wishes to all our readers for a Happy Chanukah and Chanukah Sameach!
By Moshe Kinderlehrer/
Co-Publisher and Co-Founder,
The Jewish Link