Lighting the menorah at the start of Hanukkah Tuesday night will be a bigger and brighter experience for the Levitt family.
The Levitts built an 8-by-6-foot wooden menorah for the front yard of their Naperville home. Blue LED lights illuminate eight candle holders.
The Levitts say they wanted to be a part of the holiday decorations in their neighborhood, so they spent a day building, sanding and painting the structure.
Elizabeth Levitt, mom to two kids ages 11 and 13, hopes the menorah will inspire others to share how they celebrate religious holidays and to see Naperville as an "accepting community."
It also will mark the start of a new family tradition at every Hanukkah.
"Whenever you have a tradition, that's a memory that you're building, it's emotional," Levitt said.
Rabbi Marc Rudolph of Congregation Beth Shalom in Naperville, where Levitt is a member, praised the family's effort.
"I applaud that because they are really going to publicize to their neighbors this miracle of Hanukkah," Rudolph said.
For Rudolph, the historical story of the Maccabees fighting for their Jewish traditions and defeating an oppressive Hellenic power holds a contemporary message of religious tolerance.
"There is a desire to be free, to worship as you please, and I think that message is a universal message that resonates with me personally, and it resonates with Jewish and non-Jewish people throughout the world," Rudolph said.
In downtown Naperville, an 8-foot-tall menorah will glow Thursday outside city hall along the Riverwalk.
Rabbi Mendy Goldstein, director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Naperville, will lead a public lighting ceremony at 5 p.m.
"Each and everyone has an opportunity to add light by doing acts of kindness," Goldstein said. "It's about being positive, being good and adding more light in your surroundings."