Wednesday, January 23, 2019

(l-r) Oren Adler, BPY board member; Daniel Cohen, president of BPY; Uri Moche, VP of BPY; Assemblyman Tim Eustace, 38th legislative district; Senator Loretta Weinberg, 37th legislative district; Jason Shames, CEO, Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey; Asher Toporovsky, treasurer, BPY; Josh Caplan, NJ director of Teach NJS; Joseph D’Arco, borough administrator, Paramus; Ariella Noveck, Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey; Samantha Katz, BPY board member.

Drone photo of human menorah.

Senator Loretta Weinberg

Nowadays menorahs come in all shapes and sizes, creatively crafted from various materials including sushi and Legos. Ben Porat Yosef (BPY) took the creativity to a whole new level: a human level. On Wednesday, December 13, the first day of Chanukah, students and faculty at BPY achieved a Guinness world record by creating the largest human menorah. This was a school-wide activity that engaged all students from early childhood through eighth grade. A total of 577 people participated in creating the menorah measuring 65 feet wide by 45 feet and two inches tall.

Infusing fun into the educational process is a top priority at BPY and students were eager to participate in this unique opportunity. “Today’s amazing program, which brings BPY into the Guinness Book of World Records, is more than just an exciting activity. Creating a large human menorah brings the lesson of Chanukah to life, literally, and highlights the importance of teamwork and of joy in what we do, and that is one of the hallmarks of education at BPY,” commented Rabbi Saul Zucker, head of school.

Shani Farkas, a teacher at BPY, thought of the idea before the summer and has been busy setting the wheels in motion. Farkas, along with Sharon Stahl, BPY events coordinator, spearheaded this event, which was also attended by local dignitaries and BPY board members. World records are not easy to achieve and Guinness has strict guidelines, which were enforced. There had to be at least two witnesses, neither of whom could be at all affiliated with Ben Porat Yosef. There had to be official counters, using specific “clickers” to count the students as they began the formation. The dimensions of the menorah had to be measured exactly and the students had to maintain the formation for at least five minutes, a long time for many to stand still and remain composed. Nonetheless, students enthusiastically stood side by side successfully completing this challenge as a camera drone flew overhead taking aerial photographs.

Local dignitaries were present to witness the making of this world record and join in the Chanukah festivities at BPY. New Jersey Senator Loretta Weinberg congratulated the students and told them: “I am not here today as a state senator; I am here as a Jewish grandmother. My grandchildren are 3000 miles away in California and I cannot be with them this Chanukah so I came here because I consider all of you my surrogate grandchildren.” Senator Weinberg was thrilled to be celebrating a happy occasion, which people can use a lot more of in their lives and across the world, she added.

The Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey is at the core of the Jewish community and is continuously advocating on behalf of local Jewish day schools. “I am so honored and proud to be here; it is an inspiring idea and an incredible way to recognize our Jewish identity and our tradition during Chanukah,” said Jason Shames, CEO, JFNNJ.

Also in attendance was Renee Klyman of Teach NJS, an initiative of OU advocacy that appeals to New Jersey’s legislature for Jewish day school funding. “It was great facilitating this wonderful accomplishment and being here with the students and seeing how excited they are,” she commented.

Representatives from the Paramus Mayor’s office joined the event, pleased to witness a Guinness Record for their hometown. The human menorah will be featured in the 2018 Guinness Book of World records.

By Andrea Nissel