The brothers worked late in the kitchen of their Northwest Baltimore home, concocting a masterpiece of a menorah from papier-mache, wood, cloth, beads, glue and youthful ingenuity.
Their labor paid off yesterday, as Shalev and Avisha NessAiver were among the grand prize winners in the Jewish Community Center's menorah-making contest. The choice was made by vote of shoppers at Reisterstown Road Plaza, where the competing menorahs were on display this month and where about 200 people gathered for the JCC's Hanukkah celebration.
On the stage, their menorah towered over Shalev, 9, and Avisha, 7. It was a glittering, colorful, branching candlestick to hold candles to mark the eight days of Hanukkah.
Their original plan was to construct the whole thing from papier-mache, said their mother, Tova NessAiver. But their priority was size -- "they wanted to make it big," she said. So they recruited their parents to buy wooden dowels for the superstructure.
"They stayed up till 11: 30 one night and worked all the next day," said Mrs. NessAiver, who, with her husband, Moriel, teaches her sons at home. Friends were brought in to assist by gluing on beads.
Shalev, his yarmulke covered temporarily by the Maryland Lottery cap that was in the bag of loot he won, was nonchalant in victory. "We thought we had a chance," he said.
At the mall's central crossing yesterday afternoon, between a Father and Son shoe store and a Subway sandwich shop, families gathered for performances by a storyteller, a magician and a singer and to sing traditional Hanukkah songs.
Later, many moved to the JCC on Park Heights Avenue to continue the celebration.
As shoppers strolled past, the gathering achieved an unstudied multiculturalism. David Jack, a children's performer from Philadelphia, led the crowd in the chorus of a Spanish song -- "You are my special amigos" -- as Hasidic men in black suits and LTC side curls, Russian immigrants still learning Jewish traditions and African-American children in Sunday-best outfits joined the chorus.
Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of the lights, which commemorates the re-dedication of the temple in Jerusalem in 164 B.C. after the victory of Judas Maccabeus over the Syrian dictator Antiochus IV.
Legend says that a single, small vial of oil burned miraculously for eight days.
The children who came yesterday spoke of feasts of latkes, or potato pancakes, games with the dreidel, or top, and, of course, gifts.
"Rollerblades, the game 'Life,' and arts and crafts," Michelle Sykes said she has received. "So far."
Michelle -- who wanted her age printed accurately, "7 3/4 " -- likes Hanukkah for "the dancing, singing the songs and lighting the candles," she said. Her mother, Phyllis Sykes, makes fabulous latkes, she said.
Yesterday Michelle was picked to assist the magician.
But her father, Daniel Sykes, topped that: He courageously volunteered to do the twist on stage.
Pub Date: 12/09/96