12/19/2011 01:24 pm ET

Campus Martius Menorah: Park Lights Up Downtown For First Hanukkah Celebration

The Christmas tree at Campus Martius Park in Detroit will be getting a little company this year: a six-foot-high menorah carved from ice.

On Tuesday, members of metro Detroit's Jewish community and other interested festival-goers will celebrate Hanukkah, the traditional festival of lights, for the first time ever in the park.

The celebration kicks off with lighting the giant menorah. A menorah is a special candelabra lighted on the eight days of Hannukah. It's used to commemorate an ancient Jewish miracle that, according to tradition, allowed a one-day supply of oil to burn for eight days in Israel during the time of the Maccabees.

Yaakovah Stein is the programming coordinator for the Shul, the West Bloomfield congregation that helped plan the event.

"There's a lot of excitement about Detroit right now, especially with the young Jewish community," she told Huffpost, adding that she thinks the event is a perfect way to celebrate this new energy and help rebuild the city's Jewish community.

Once home to a thriving Jewish presence, Detroit's Jewish population is now a mere fraction of its former size. Although experiencing a minor resurgence, the migration has been a microcosm of the larger depopulation experienced by the city and the state. According to the Jewish news service JTA, some 5,000 young Jews left Michigan between 2005 and 2010.

The Campus Martius menorah will be lit from 5:30-6:15 p.m. Hot soup and deep-fried jelly holiday donuts, called sufganiot, will be provided. The park will stay open after the ceremony for music, light jugglers, traditional games and ice skating.

"Everyone is welcome. It's a public event," said Stein. "We'd love a lot of support for the holiday, as well as Detroit."

Along with the Shul, Quicken Loans, Community Next, and Chef Cori Kosher Catering are helping sponsor the event, which is free.

For more information visit the Shul's website.

Several other other Hanukkah events and celebrations are taking place in Detroit this year.

Also on Thursday, the Isaac Agree Temple in the city's downtown will host a Hanukkah party, coinciding with with the synagogue's annual meeting and elections for its board of directors. A week from Tuesday, on Dec. 27, the Rosh Hodesh Women's Circle will discuss the traditional Hannukah story of Judith and Holefernes. Both events will take place at the synagogue at 1457 Griswold. For more information visit

The Reconstructionist Congregation of Detroit will also be hosting an annual Hanukkah party on Dec. 2. The event will include a "battle of the dreidels," featuring traditional Jewish spinning tops. Participants are asked to bring their own dreidels. The congregation's sanctuary is located at 960 E. Jefferson. For more information, visit