Continuing a decade-long tradition in the Brazilian state of Paraná – and a project run by Chabad-Lubavitch centers the world over – the Chabad House of Curitiba is distributing Chanukah candles to all Jewish families in the regional capital.

With a community of about 850 families amidst a teeming city of roughly 1.8 million people, Curitiba’s Jews annually look towards Chanukah as an opportunity to strengthen their unity, explains Chabad House director Rabbi Yoseph Durbrawsky. Drawing on the support of several other local Jewish organizations and a team of children to prepare the boxes of candles and package them with small menorahs, the Chabad House dispatched this season more than 40 volunteers to fan out through the city.

Chanukah, the eight-day Festival of Lights that celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem following a military victory against the Syrian-Greek army, began Wednesday night. (For more information about the holiday, and to locate celebrations and public menorah lighting ceremonies near you, click here.)

According to Dubrawsky, the annual deliveries provide Jewish families – especially those with no formal ties to the wider community – a crucial link to their heritage.

“Before we located these families and began these drives, people had never gotten visits from anyone,” says the rabbi. “Now people can expect a visit every Chanukah.”

Outpourings of joy between both recipients and volunteers are commonplace. One volunteer who tracked down a Jewish family living outside of Curitiba reports that they were so happy to receive the candles, they had tears in their eyes. The volunteer, as well, couldn’t help getting misty-eyed, says Rabbi Mendy Stolik, director of the local Chabad-run school.

A team of more than 40 volunteers pick up their packages before fanning out across the city.
A team of more than 40 volunteers pick up their packages before fanning out across the city.

Its distribution largely completed, the Chabad House is turning its efforts to a Thursday inauguration of its commercial kosher kitchen and store, the only such kosher establishment in the entire state. And Sunday evening, it’s welcoming community members and other residents to a massive public menorah lighting. Stolik expects as many as 500 people to attend the party, a turnout indicative of the city’s support for its minority population. Activities will include a production by local children wearing period dress, and carnival-style games.

“The city is very caring when it comes to the Jewish community,” says Stolik.

The municipality, at its own expense, maintains the menorah, sets up a stage for the lighting ceremony, and encourages local politicians to participate, he details. “There is a feeling of togetherness.”