Menorah Makers on Fire Island: The Story Behind Ocean Beach’s Municipal Menorah

FIFTH NIGHT: Ocean Beach Menorah at nightfall. Photos by Shoshanna McCollum.

Why are these lights different from all other lights? Well, the Ocean Beach Village Green Menorah is one of a kind.

The substantially sized blue menorah which has graced the OB Village Green every holiday season for many years has generated much interest recently, even superseding viewer engagement of our #WhitetailWednesday weekly segment, when Fire Island News posted it via our social media channels on December 7, 2023.

A quick online search showed us there nothing quite like it in any standard retail venues, yet something about it seemed very familiar, very Fire Island if you will… ‘Is that PVC piping?’ this editor asked herself. So, we approached our friend, Ocean Beach Village Clerk Jonneigh Adrion with our hypothesis.

“Oh yes,” Jonneigh said with a lilt in her voice. “The guys at Public Works built it.”

Kevin Schelling, Supervisor of Incorporated Village of Ocean Beach (VOB) Public Works Department seemed at first reluctant to interview, but eventually made the time to speak with us.

“We have had it up on the Green ever since Hurricane Sandy burned out our old one. When I went looking for a replacement, I didn’t see anything that seemed right,” said Mr. Schelling, now 42 years with the Village.

He went onto explain that the menorah is not the only component of the Ocean Beach Holiday display built in-house.

“We built the manger for our Nativity Scene as well,” Schelling added.

The vintage Nativity figures enjoy solid housing now thanks to the VOB Public Works Department.

While he did not go into much detail about how the PVC pipe came to be the material of choice, one of the primary functions of VOB Public Works is maintaining the Water and Sewer facilities. For this reason, PVC pipe is readily on hand, and its shape makes it the perfect receptacle to run electric wiring through.

“Then we spraypainted it blue,” he concluded. “I ran the idea by several of my Jewish friends of mine to make sure it was appropriate and respectful. People seem to like it.”

None of the Public Works employees in Ocean Beach are Jewish, but Long Island of course is a place where many cultures reside and co-exist. The thing is, it does not immediately look like a DYI menorah – the symmetry is spot-on, and its handsome having kind of a Brutalist vibe going for it.

But after standing on the Village Green every Holiday Season for about a decade, why all the interest in it now?

“Maybe because Hanukkah came early this year and it has had a chance to shine on its own,” offered Schelling. “We also gave it better lighting this year. We try to make improvements to our display every season.”

This weekend on Saturday evening, December 16, the rest of the Village Green will brighten up as the Annual Tree Lighting event in cooperation with the Ocean Beach Fire Department. There will be music and caroling, followed by a potluck supper at the Ocean Beach Fire Hall. It’s always a fun time for neighbors and friends to gather and celebrate together.

And this year as another added feature, the Ocean Beach Chamber of Commerce is also contributing to the light show as many local businesses have decorated their storefronts.

Here’s to a touch of Holiday cheer and goodwill during a time when turbulent waters abound.