Chanukah in Hawaii
Chanukah in Hawaii Motti Zeligson/

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Looming above the Hawaiian island of Maui at 10,023 feet is Haleakalā, a dormant volcano surrounded by lush rainforest and Mars-like red landscapes. Rabbi Mendy Krasnjansky was winding his way up the mountain with two visiting rabbinical students before Rosh Hashanah 2020. The students, who had come from New York to assist Krasnjansky, co-director of Chabad of Maui with his wife, Mushka, were leaving after the holiday, and Krasnjansky wanted to show them some of the island’s stunning scenery.

It was a starry night when they reached the summit. After sunset, most of the sightseers were gone, and the area was almost deserted. It was the three rabbis and a young man, alone. Seeing the rabbis, the tourist turned to them and told them that he had just gotten off the phone with his grandmother in Toronto, who asked where he’d be the next day for Rosh Hashanah. Krasnjansky invited the man, Adam, to Chabad’s service.

Adam came and brought a friend, Kevin. They prayed, chatted, feasted and had a good time. After the holiday, Adam returned to the mainland, and the rabbi lost touch with Kevin, whose details he hadn’t managed to get amid the hustle and bustle of holiday events.

Months went by when out of the blue, the rabbi got a Facebook message from Kevin. “It was the last night of Chanukah, and I was putting away our Tiki torch menorah,” Krasnjansky tells of that night in December 2020. “He said he loves Chanukah, and wants to meet up and light a menorah.” It was already 9 p.m., the rabbi still had a study session with a community member that night, and Kevin lived on the other end of the island, an hour away. “I told him it wouldn’t work out tonight, but I’d meet him next week for a coffee.”

Then, the rabbi reconsidered. How could he say no to a Jew who wanted to light a menorah?

Still time to light...
Motty Zeligson/

After his study session, the rabbi told Kevin, he’d drive over. Finally, at 12:30 a.m., the rabbi was free from his commitments and hopped into the car. An hour away became an hour-and-a-half, though finally, they met.

At 2:30 a.m., Kevin lit the menorah.

“He was certainly the last person to light the Chanukah candles in Hawaii,” notes Krasnjansky, making Kevin the last Jew to light Chanukah candles in the world. “May he be the last person to light the menorah while we’re in exile, and may the merit of his mitzvah bring Moshiach before coming Chanukah.”

Rabbi Mendy Krasnjansky helps a visitor with a last-minute chance to put on tefi
Motty Zeligson/

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