One of the most magical sights in Philadelphia is Boathouse Row at night, when the riverbank rowing houses are illuminated with a beckoning glow, reflecting on the still waters of the Schuylkill River. For Jews celebrating Hanukkah this season, this visual delight has taken on a new significance: for the first time, the boathouses have been converted into what Mayor Kenney’s office describes in a press release as “one of the largest representations of the menorah in the nation.”
As a symbol of religious inclusiveness, the boathouses sparkled with Christmas colors for a week, and then, on December 24, the first night of Hanukkah, they took on the image of a giant menorah. The center house, glowing in white, seves as the shamash, and for each night of the holiday, another house is lit up in blue, simulating the lighting of the candles on a menorah. The sixth night of the holiday featured an outdoor Hanukkah event hosted by the mayor at the Fairmount Fish Ladder on the opposite side of the river, facing the glowing menorah.
And so, as we celebrate Hanukkah in our homes this year, the holiday now shines its light on a grand scale along the banks of the Schuylkill River.
For an interesting explanation of how the symbolic pairing of Christmas and Hanukkah lights on Boathouse Row reflects the diversity of the rowers themselves, see the article in The Jewish Exponent.