In a unifying effort to brighten up Chanukah’s dark nights, Chabad of Farmington Hills and Bingham Farms collaborated with Jewish schools across Metro Detroit and with artist Ariel Cummings to create an 11-foot-tall menorah.

Moussia Geisinsky with children and their tiles

It will have its first kindling at a community-wide Chanukah festival on the second night of Chanukah in the parking lot of the Franklin Cider Mill in Bloomfield Township from 5-7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 25. The evening’s highlights include music, an eclectic menu from chili to sushi and, of course, hot apple cider.

Lighting the menorah will be Bloomfield Township Trustee Neal Barnett. Rabbis representing Jewish streams across the spectrum will also share their insights on the miracle of Chanukah.

Chabad of Bingham Farms’ Rabbi Bentzion and Moussia Geisinsky came up with the idea, wanting to unite people in the creation of a menorah to “brighten the darkness that’s around us.” They reached out to Jewish day schools and religious schools, inviting students to decorate one ceramic tile to contribute to the menorah. Since starting the project in mid-November, students and others have decorated more than 300 tiles.

“The message of the menorah is the power of how a little light can dispel much darkness,” said Rabbi Geisinsky. “The trust the Jews had in God gave way to the miracle of a small jug of oil burning brightly for eight days.”

Ariel Cummings works on the menorah.

On successive nights, Chabad rabbis will be lighting the menorah around 5:15 each night of the holiday on the property and the public is welcome to watch, minus the fanfare and a warming cup of hot cider.

Before he began his conversion to Judaism more than five years ago, Cummings of Detroit — an artist, musician and electric engineer — gave his talents to the fledgling techno music scene in Detroit as a DJ and sound engineer in the early 2000s.

Now working as a contractor and a painter, Cummings said he draws his inspiration from the artists and crafters in the Torah, such as Betzalel, who was given the task of fashioning the Ark of the Covenant.

“I once traveled the world bringing Detroit’s techno music to new audiences, but I needed a different approach,” Cummings said. “My knack for building things led me to other opportunities and now I am building this menorah. I am merely the overseer on this project, something so many others helped to create. My goal is to have the children look up and take pride, see the tile they created and say ‘I made that.’”

Cummings said he was drawn to Judaism because of traditions rooted in bringing light to bad situations.

“When you look at all the bad things in the world, it can get quite distressing,” he said. “But regardless of where you are in your life, as Jews we can transcend hardships and become something greater because we have the Torah as our roadmap to guide us. Judaism truly draws people to light.”

By Stacy Gittleman | Contributing Writer