Baltimore residents and visitors were treated to a festive sight on the first night of Chanukah as a group of 25 young men and teenagers, donned in dreidel costumes, rode electric scooters affixed with light-up menorahs through the streets of the downtown area and along the popular waterfront known as the Inner Harbor.
The unorthodox parade, so to speak, was a celebration arranged and led by students at Yeshivas Lubavitch of Baltimore, a nonprofit boys’ school that has been teaching Jewish boys since 2005. Yeshivas Lubavitch is dedicated to offering Torah-based education to young men in the area in hopes that they remain involved in their Jewish communities and potentially even take on leadership positions.
More specifically, the Sunday-night parade was organized by Leible Druk, 17, a student at the school’s Rabbinical Seminary and the son of Chabad emissaries. His parents, Rabbi Levi and Chani Druk, are co-directors of Chabad of Downtown in the Little Italy neighborhood. Leible helped raise the funds to coordinate the ride and assembled a team of participants from his friends and fellow students at Yeshivas Lubavitch.
“My family and I have had the privilege to service the downtown Jewish community, and Chanukah has always played a major role in what we do,” he said of how he came up with the idea for a scooter parade. “This year being my first time back in town after studying in Detroit for four years, I wanted to do something of my own and was looking for the best possible way to spread the miracle of Chanukah.”
As for why he decided to do a scooter parade in particular, “It seemed just right. It’s original, fun and hard to miss.”
The scooters used were gathered right off the sidewalks; the students made use of the electric ones provided by the city of Baltimore for easier maneuverability around town. They attached LED-lit menorahs to them to literally light their way shortly before starting their ride around town.
‘Doing just one good deed’
Viewers were able to watch the parade pass by on the street or follow along with them. The students also handed out Chanukah staples like menorahs, candles and dreidels. The parade made its way to Fells Point before ending at the Chabad House, where participants lit a truck-mounted menorah and enjoyed some holiday-themed refreshments.
The student participants also explained that the parade is a response of sorts to the recent rise of antisemitic sentiment in media and by major public figures, as well as to confront anti-Jewish harassment in local communities and around the country. Leible said fighting back against antisemitism is especially important at Chanukah time.
“The best way to counter antisemitism is with public display of Jewish pride,” he said. “One of the main messages of the holiday is that a little bit of light can overtake a lot of darkness. Doing just one good deed can counter a lot of evil in the world.”
In terms of what he wanted people to take away from the event, Leible replied: “My hope is that someone watching our parade was inspired to light his or her own menorah, impacting others, thereby causing an everlasting cycle of light and Jewish pride.”
“I’m a proud parent, so don’t mind my bias,” chimed in Rabbi Levi Druk, Leible’s father and the rabbi at Chabad of Downtown, “but I think it’s beautiful to see young Jews take initiative in promoting Judaism in fun and innovative ways.”