2006-12-14 / Top Stories

Mill Basin Family Displays Personal Festival Of Lights

By Neil S. Friedman

The Teitelbaum family on the front steps of their Mill Basin home. (Clock-wise from left)Dan, Beth, Arielle and Benny.                   Neil S. FriedmanThe Teitelbaum family on the front steps of their Mill Basin home. (Clock-wise from left)Dan, Beth, Arielle and Benny. Neil S. Friedman During this time of year of religious seasonal holidays, it is more than likely that pedestrians and drivers are awed by some fabulous Christmas displays that decorate the homes of many Christian families. Yet, it is extremely rare — perhaps even unheard of — to see the exterior of the homes of Jewish families decorated with lighting and other ornamentation.

Three years ago one Jewish family in Mill Basin joined their Christian neighbors with their own distinctive and luminous Hanukkah display and have again expanded the pioneering practice, which resulted after their daughter Arielle, now 12, asked them why other houses were lit up at holiday time and theirs wasn’t.

Dan Teitelbaum told the Canarsie Courier last year that his daughter’s query prompted him and his wife to start decorating their front window with a few items, including a Star of David and a few stuffed animals.

The Teitelbaum Hanukkah House on Avenue Tin Mill Basin.       Neil S. FriedmanThe Teitelbaum Hanukkah House on Avenue Tin Mill Basin. Neil S. Friedman “Since there is very little in terms of Hanukkah decorations,” he explained, “many of the pieces are homemade.”

Each year something is added. This year the front lawn and the house’s exterior are decorated with oversized dreidels (a spinning top used in Hanukkah games), including one that rotates, and several small menorahs that are backlit for effect after sundown.

Five-year-old Benny Teitelbaum gave a Courier reporter, who visited the house Tuesday evening, a guided tour and explained about the new adornments.

Dan Teitelbaum said that his house is a neighborhood attraction and this year has garnered more media attention. Neighbors and passersby of varied faiths frequently stop to take photographs of the display.

“Some people are so awed,” Teitelbaum said, “they knock on the door to offer positive comments and express their joy at seeing such a sight.”

Their neighbor Richard Varipappa, a retired New York City police officer and craftsman, helps the Teitelbaums with their decorations.

The Teitelbaums plan on adding more items for display next year. While it may never reach the degree of some homes with Christmas decor, their house on Avenue T, east of Mill Avenue in Mill Basin has, nevertheless, started a proud, distinctive ritual for which they, too, will be remembered.

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