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Manhattan’s Biggest Menorah Mystery, Solved

The story behind the massive Hanukkiah atop a Fifth Avenue building

Stephanie Butnick
December 19, 2014
William Goldberg's Fifth Avenue Menorah. (William Goldberg)
William Goldberg's Fifth Avenue Menorah. (William Goldberg)

Ever wonder about that massive menorah perched on an office building terrace at Fifth Avenue and 48th Street during Hanukkah? You can see it from the street; the Hanukkiah sits on the 14th floor of 589 Fifth Avenue, overlooking one of the busiest stretches of Manhattan.

To the family it belongs to, though, the menorah is simply a longtime tradition, not a diamond district beacon.

“We don’t realize that all the cars driving down Fifth Avenue can see it,” admits Saul Goldberg, whose father, diamond macher William Goldberg, first put up the menorah nearly two decades ago on the terrace of his eponymous company’s Fifth Avenue offices.

Saul Goldberg, who now runs the family business, continues the tradition each year, bringing out the nearly seven-foot Hanukkiah and installing it in place atop the bustling avenue.

Goldberg describes his father, who died in 2003, as a very traditional Jew. “He was always very spiritual,” Goldberg says, adding that the elder Goldberg would go each year to the Chabad Lubavitch menorah lighting at the Plaza Hotel. About 15 years ago, Goldberg says his father and his close friend William Nelkin, another big name in the diamond district, were talking about Hanukkah, and his father said he’d like to have a great big menorah of his own.

“You do the menorah, I’ll pay for it,” Goldberg recalls Nelkin saying. His father hired a contractor, and a Hanukkah tradition was born.

“It’s become a wonderful thing to look forward to every year” Goldberg says. His family gets together during Hanukkah, and the grandchildren light the menorah with their grandmother. A company holiday party, complete with latkes, is held on the terrace as well.

It’s got a great spot on Fifth Avenue,” Goldberg says, but the menorah is about more than the visibility. “We just do it for ourselves, its for the company, our staff, and the people in our building.”

Related: Bright Spots

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.