Finals cause obstacles for students celebrating Hanukkah

Students celebrating Hanukkah this year face new obstacles with finals week coinciding with the Jewish holiday. Hanukkah, which runs by the lunar calendar, will begin Friday evening and end Saturday night of the following week. Unlike the past few years, the holiday will not occur during the winter break.

Lauren Kane, senior in ACES, said she finds the most difficult part of celebrating on campus is not being with family. However, Hanukkah on campus can also be something enjoyable, since festivities would be carried out with friends, she said.

“This weekend my dad is coming to visit me and bringing some Hanukkah gifts so that I wouldn’t spend the beginning of Hanukkah by myself,” Kane said. “But I’m still looking forward to seeing my friends during the holiday and maybe eating some Sufganiyot.”

Sondra Feldman, junior in LAS, also said it is difficult to celebrate alone since Hanukkah is a very family-oriented holiday. She said to celebrate, she plans to meet with friends for festivities and the lighting of the menorah.

“We’ll probably do a gift exchange, like Secret Santa,” Feldman said. “It’s wonderful because on campus, at least I have a great network of friends for the holiday, including my roommates that are also Jewish.”

Like many other Jewish holidays, Hanukkah requires the individual to rest in the evening for at least half an hour, Kane said. She added this is something she is used to because of Sabbath, which requires an extended period of rest and runs from every Friday evening to Saturday night.

With finals around the corner, the rest period for each day of Hanukkah may be cumbersome to some. But Kane said she does not think the holiday will interfere with her studying.

“It’s actually refreshing,” Kane said. “It’s like a spiritual cleansing, really, by turning off all electronics and taking the time to rest.”

Jewish centers in Urbana-Champaign, such as the Hillel Foundation and the Chabad Center for Jewish Life, are planning social events so students can take study breaks and celebrate at the same time, Feldman said.

“I hope to go to some of these events so that I remind myself it’s still Hanukkah when finals start to come around,” Feldman said.

Max Dayan, junior in LAS, said regulations in many student living areas make it difficult to follow the required commandment of lighting the menorah.

“Living in a house, like I do, makes it much easier to follow what is typically done in lighting the menorah, such as placing the menorah by the window for all to see,” Dayan said.

Students have found a few ways to circumvent dorms’ fire restrictions. Dayan said rabbis of the Hillel Foundation and the Chabad Center for Jewish Life have been speaking to officials about being more flexible with the regulations. One idea they have suggested is allowing a menorah for an entire building to be located in the lounge.

Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel, executive director for Chabad, said for anyone who does not have access to a menorah, there will be a lighting of a large menorah on the Quad on Sunday.

“It’s a wonderful way to give students that don’t have any other way to celebrate the occasion to stay connected,” Dayan said.