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Lubavitch Hasidim launch Hanukkah mobile in suburban Detroit

OAK PARK, Mich. (AP) -- Hanukkah is going mobile in suburban Detroit this year, as members of the Chabad-Lubavitch organization strap giant candelabra to the roofs of cars and vans to mark the start of the Jewish freedom festival on Tuesday night.

In the overall scope of the Jewish calendar, this eight-day festival that celebrates religious freedom is considered a minor observance. But, surveys have shown that the vast majority of the about 100,000 Jews in southeastern Michigan will light candles to mark the event.

Most Jewish families light small wax candles or oil lamps in the privacy of their homes.

Those promoting the use of car-top fixtures are affiliated with Chabad-Lubavitch, a New York-based outreach-oriented movement within the Hasidic branch of Orthodox Judaism.

On Tuesday evening after sunset, it plans parades involving scores of vehicles fitted with the car-top candelabra. Their routes vary, but they will travel through neighborhoods from Oak Park to Oakland County's West Bloomfield Township.

"Our organization is all over the world and we try our best to remind all Jews to be conscious of our traditions," Levi Stein, a 16-year-old student at an Oak Park Lubavitch school, said Saturday night as he spent hours outfitting vehicles in a cold breeze. "Sometimes Jews feel like they can't find the time for observances or maybe they're feeling a little embarrassed. We want to remind people of what they need to do."

Rabbi Dannel Schwartz of Temple Shir Shalom, a Reform Jewish congregation in West Bloomfield Township, said the parades are not everyone's choice for expressing the faith.

"You ask three Jews about this and you'll get five opinions. Some will say, "That's not my cup of tea,' and others will say, "Where do I get a menorah for my car?"' he told the Detroit Free Press.

However they may feel about such large-scale public displays, Schwartz said, the whole Jewish community is united at this time of year in the enjoyment of lighting candles and remembering the traditional story of the holiday.

"This is so important that we send out college care packages to our children in college and we include a menorah and the candles, too. We want everybody to participate," Schwartz said.

In predominantly Christian countries, Hanukkah is partly an important reminder to Jewish children, during the Xmas-dominated season, that their families have lively, faith-filled customs, too, Schwartz said.

"If you ask people about their best childhood memories of Judaism at home, and they'll say Hanukkah," said Schwartz. "And that's good. I tell people that this is about family, food and fun."