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Rabbi Bruk to light up Bozeman
By AMANDA RICKER Chronicle Staff Writer

Rabbi Mendy Bukiet of Chabad of Bradenton displays a menorah on the roof of his 2003 Sonata, which will light up during Hanukkah.

Holiday lights on Main Street in downtown Bozeman are about to get a whole lot brighter.


Rabbi Chaim Bruk will host a public menorah lighting at 6 p.m. on Saturday in front of First Security Bank in Bozeman. In observance of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, a 9-foot-tall menorah will be lit in front of First Security Bank during a public ceremony 6 p.m. Saturday. The giant candelabra symbolizes the holiday, which begins Tuesday and lasts until Dec. 12.

Organizer Rabbi Chaim Bruk said the event will mark the first public menorah lighting in the history of Montana. Karen Semple, a representative of the Montana Association of Jewish Communities, said she hasn't come across any records of a previous public lighting and it's possible that Bruk is right.

“He's bringing a more visible form of Judaism to Montana,” Semple said.

Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Bruk, 25, moved to Bozeman in March and is one of two rabbis in the state.
He and his wife, Chavie, 22, are members of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, a branch of Hasidism founded in Russia in the 1700s. Its followers are Orthodox Jews.

The Chabad Lubavitch of Montana Center founded by the Bruks marks the first Orthodox Jewish group in the state in nearly 100 years, Bruk said. Bruk's religion differs from Bozeman's reform Jewish community, Temple Beth Shalom.

“My sole purpose is to get Jews involved in traditional Judaism,” Bruk said.

During the public menorah lighting, Bruk will lead traditional blessings in Hebrew, Hanukkah music will be played and Hanukkah songs will be sung.

Menorahs and dreidels, a spinning top played with during the holiday, will be available at the lighting for people to take home. Mayor Jeff Kraus and First Security Bank president Ron Farmer will be special guests at the ceremony.

People from all segments of the Jewish and non-Jewish community are invited to attend, Bruk said. The holiday is not just a message for Jews specifically, but a message of freedom of religion for everyone, he said.

Hanukkah is a celebration of a historic victory of the Jews against the Syrian-Greek regime that was a threat to Jewish life. When the Jews entered Jerusalem and their Holy Temple to light the menorah, the small amount of oil used miraculously lasted eight days and nights.

Jews made up just one-tenth of a percent of Montana's population in 2006, according to an estimate by the Jewish Virtual Library. But the Jewish community appears to be thriving.

“The response has been overwhelming,” Bruk said of his arrival. “In (my and my wife's) wildest dreams, we would have never thought in eight months of being here we would have had such support, encouragement and attendance.”

Bruk will host another public menorah lighting at 3 p.m. Dec. 11 at the state capitol, which he said Gov. Schweitzer will attend.