Students prepare to celebrate Hanukkah

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Caroline Kim

For more than 2,300 years, the Jewish faith has celebrated what the religion says was a miracle. The tradition continues this year, beginning Dec. 8 with the start of the eight-day holiday of Hanukkah, which will last until Dec. 15.

Hanukkah is not one of the major Jewish holidays, but its popularity grows because of its closeness to Christmas, said Avi Buchbinder, junior in LAS and member of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

“I’ve always loved Hanukkah, and it’s definitely something I enjoy celebrating,” Buchbinder said.

Hanukkah, otherwise known as the Festival of Lights, begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. The holiday began when the Syrian king Antiochus ordered the Jewish people to reject their religion and worship Greek gods, but Judah Maccabee refused. With his brothers, Judah formed an army that was consequently named after his family, the Maccabees.

After three years, the Maccabees defeated the Syrians and reclaimed the temple in Jerusalem. On the 25th day of Kislev, the Maccabees finished cleaning the temple and rededicated it to Judaism.

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    During the rededication, they wanted to light the eternal light called the N’er Tamid – a light present in every Jewish house of worship and is not supposed to die out – but they only had enough oil to last one day. According to the story, the lamp was lit nonetheless, and the oil miraculously managed to light the N’er Tamid for eight days.

    The holiday lasts for eight days, representing the number of days the candle stayed lit.

    Today, nine candles are placed on the menorah, a multi-candle holder, and one candle is added each night of the holiday. The center candle, which sits higher than the others, is used to light the other candles. Some people, especially children, receive presents during Hanukkah and people celebrate the time with family and friends.

    After coming to the University, many students said they aren’t able to go home to celebrate Hanukkah because school is usually in session during the holiday. As a result, the Jewish community on campus has found several ways for students to celebrate.

    Eli Johnson, junior in business, said celebrating Hanukkah on campus is a little different than being at home during the holiday.

    “Since you’re not at home with your family, you gather around with your closer friends and other people who celebrate it,” he said.

    He said his Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity usually gets together to light the candle each night. Johnson said the group also has dinner together and tries to do something out of the ordinary to celebrate.

    “It’s always a nice time of year in general,” Johnson said. “As with any other holiday, it’s a nice time to gather with your family and friends.”

    The Chabad Jewish Center has a series of events planned for Hanukkah, including hosting a party every night.

    One of the major events will be the Grand Hanukkah event and Menorah Lighting on the Quad on Dec. 9. An official University representative will give a speech, according to Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel, executive director of Chabad Jewish Center. Afterward, the Illini Rec Room will be open for entertainment and games that will include dreidel games and cosmic bowling.

    “This is a very unique event,” Tiechtel said. “It is the first time that there will be a Hanukkah event at the Union and that the Illini Union is co-sponsoring it.”

    Tiechtel said having the event at a public place like the Union will give more students access to it.

    “We want to bring Hanukkah to where the people are,” Tiechtel said.

    A six-foot menorah also will be displayed during Hanukkah in the Union.

    Other events include the Second Annual Hanukkah Festival at Lincoln Square Mall.

    Chabad will also sell menorah kits that include a menorah, candles and a guide about Hanukkah on the Quad on Dec. 6 and 7.

    A Hanukkah party is scheduled to take place at Hillel on Dec. 7 to begin the holiday. Latkes – potato pancakes usually eaten during Hanukkah because they are fried in oil, which represents the miracle oil burning – will be made to commemorate the miracle.

    Hillel also will sell gelt-o-grams Monday through Thursday at the Union and some residence halls. Gelts are money or chocolate coins that are given to others during Hanukkah.

    Aliza Goodman, Jewish campus service corps fellow, said this is the first year Hillel is selling the grams. The proceeds will go to the Jewish United Fund, a non-profit organization that raises money for various Jewish organizations and activities.

    Candle lightings will be held every night at Hillel except for Dec. 8, where the organization will perform the lighting on the Quad at 5:15 p.m. Candle lightings also will be held at Allen Hall on some nights. Times, places and details can be viewed on Hillel’s Web site.

    Michael Leff, Jewish student life coordinator at Hillel, said he expects a good turnout for this year’s events. He said there are about 3,000 to 4,000 Jewish students at the University.

    “We’re all excited about Hanukkah, having students who are away from home and giving them an opportunity to have a small family here on campus to celebrate Hanukkah with,” Leff said.