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Doylestown Takes Chanukah for a Spin

December 22, 2005 By:
Jared Shelly, JE Feature
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Hali Shotz (left) and Drew Saias get into the Chanukah spirit.
Even though artist David Danek worked for six months to build his version of the perfect dreidel, no lucky child will get a chance to give it a spin; this particular toy happens to be 8 feet tall.

Standing smack-dab in the center of Doylestown, at the corner of State and Main streets, the blue, red and gold "Doylestown Dreidel" has provided the city's Jewish residents with a symbol of pride. Around 100 people stood outside on Dec. 15, braving the blustery winds and intermittent bouts of icy rain to attend the dedication ceremony for the new structure.

Jack Mikula, president of the Doylestown Business and Community Alliance, which commissioned the work, noted after the event that it was high time the town represented Chanukah.

"The Jewish symbol was excluded for a lot of years," said Mikula, who is not Jewish, but stressed that the structure was important to his wife and family, who are. "We've really made an effort in the last two or three years to recognize that it's a universal community."

The city expects to disassemble the dreidel - constructed of plywood, fiberglass and steel, and sitting on a base secured by 1,000 pounds of sand - after the holiday season.

'A Really Fun Project'
Danek, who mainly designs custom furniture, saw the project as a way to make a difference for the people of Doylestown.

"It sounded like a really fun project and something to do for the community," he said.

Though not Jewish himself, the man was drawn to the project because his wife and two children are Jewish.

When thinking of a way to officially represent the holiday, Rabbi Gary Pokras from Temple Judea of Bucks County, who was consulted on the project, suggested building a dreidel rather than a menorah. He said that a menorah-lighting, which he regarded as a highly religious act, would have run against church-state separation concerns.

"The dreidel really celebrates the holiday as well, but it doesn't have the religious overtones of a menorah," said the rabbi. "If we don't want them putting giant crosses and nativity scenes in our central places, we shouldn't stick a menorah there either."

For the Christian community, the Doylestown Business and Community Alliance has put up a Christmas tree right next to the dreidel, and has hung white lighted balls from area lampposts.

Although the dreidel was formally introduced to Doylestown at an unveiling on Nov. 25, many families brought their children out to last week's ceremony.

"I thought it was great," stated Danek. "Everybody that has seen it so far has given it really good praise, and it's really good to see the children's faces light up when they look at it."

Mikula, who was hoping the frigid air wouldn't impede the ceremony, was happy with the turnout.

"The group was very enthusiastic," he said. "We weren't sure with the weather how many people would come out, but they stuck it out. Everyone seemed really enthusiastic here."

Barrie Saias, who got all bundled up along with her 7-year-old son Jared and 5-year-old daughter Drew to watch the dedication, was glad that a Jewish symbol had been placed in the middle of town.

"It makes the children and the families and the community as a whole feel very good to feel included in the holiday season," she proclaimed. "It was beautifully done."

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