Sunday, December 01, 2013

Matisyahu beat boxes, lights menorah with Kalamazoo Jewish Community in Bronson Park 

Although his visit was a short one, Matisyahu delighted an intimate crowd by answering questions, signing autographs and beat boxing during a menorah lighting in Bronson Park Sunday.

Matisyahu, a Hasidic Jewish hip-hop/reggae recording artist, made the appearance at the lighting celebration on the fifth night of Hanukkah before his show at Kalamazoo State Theatre scheduled for Sunday night.

Standing next to the 12-foot menorah recently installed in Bronson Park, Matisyahu did some beat boxing, showing off some of the musical skills that have made him a Grammy-nominated star. Matisyahu also answered some questions from the crowd of more than 100.

When asked what type of music he likes to produce, Matisyahu said anything that is "true to his experience."

Before leaving the event, he signed some autographs for young fans.

Beth Grode, president of The Jewish Federation of Kalamazoo, said when she found out that Matisyahu was going to be in Kalamazoo for a concert, she had to ask his agent if he could come to the menorah lighting.

"He was very honored when we asked him," Grode said. "My family and I are big Matisyahu fans so we were excited."

The event also included dancing, singing traditional Jewish songs and eating sufganiyot, round jelly donuts fried in oil. During Hanukkah, the Jewish community often eats fried foods in memory of the miracle of the Temple oil that burned for eight days when the Maccabees rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem.

Hanukkah commemorates the rededicated Temple after the Maccabees, a small band of pious Jews, revolted against and defeated the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

Rabbi Mordechai Haller, of the Chabad House of Kalamazoo, said the Kalamazoo Jewish community can learn a lot from the Maccabees and the story behind Hanukkah.

"The Maccabees were a very small group, just like the Kalamazoo Jewish community," he said. "But against all odds, they did what was right. Because of that, God helped them and they were successful in a miraculous way."

This is the first year the Jewish community has had a presence in Bronson Park during the holidays, Grode said.

"It's a great way to bring the whole Jewish community together and to show others that Hanukkah isn't just a Jewish Christmas," she said.


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