Hillel Society fosters community and a sense of ‘home’ with Hanukkah events

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The Hillel House has been a space for Jewish students to join together as a community. (Photo by Emily Taub ’22)

Bernadette Russo , Assistant Arts and Culture Editor

As Thanksgiving break wrapped up, Lafayette students began their next holiday celebration. This past Sunday marked the start of Hanukkah. For those who will be spending this holiday away from home, the Lafayette Hillel Society has provided a community to celebrate with on campus.

This year, Hanukkah takes place from sundown on Nov. 28 to sundown on Dec. 6. Throughout the week, a candle lighting has been held for each night of Hanukkah in the Hillel House at 6:30 p.m. On Sunday, Dec. 5 at 4:30 p.m., there will be a Hanukkah party at the house before the end of the holiday. The party will feature various stations including dreidel painting, menorah making and a food station marked by traditional foods such as jelly donuts, gelt (Hanukkah-themed chocolate coins) and latkes (pan-fried potato pancakes). Participants will also be able to fill out holiday cards that will be sent to either a senior citizen center or a children’s hospital.

Tonight, there will be a Hanukkah-themed Shabbat service led by Hillel’s Vice President of Religion and Culture Lisa Green ‘24. She will be coordinating a d’var Torah — a talk on a topic relating to a parashah (section) of the Torah — about the Hanukkah story, and will also deliver some motivating words she wrote.

“I’m really excited for services. I put a lot of love and heart into every week. And I think this week, I’ve been reflecting a lot over the course of Thanksgiving about what it means to really own who you are, the good and the bad,” Green said.

Green said that her d’var Torah will be different from last year’s Hanukkah-themed Shabbat service, which was held over Zoom. Her focus for last year’s d’var Torah was on having resilience as a part of a larger group navigating the pandemic, while this year will be centered around finding the individual light and power within oneself as the end of the semester picks up.

“We’re all kind of struggling right now, dealing with a lot, especially academically,” Green said. “There was a light that was meant to last for one night and it lasted for eight. And I feel like that’s the spirit we need going into these last few weeks.”

Celebrating Hanukkah on campus this year has been different for many students who have only ever celebrated the holiday with family. Sarah Smith ’24, a board member of Hillel’s Social Action Committee, says she recognizes the differences between being on campus versus being at home during the holiday. She believes that the Hillel Society is doing what they can for students to fill that gap caused by being away from home, especially for younger members who have never celebrated on campus.

“This is the first time I’ve spent Hanukkah without my family,” Smith said. “I think it’s been harder for most students to celebrate the holiday at school, but I do think it’s nice that Hillel is making the best of it. And they’re making sure people have a place to go every single night.”

“It is a community,” Smith said. “Every Friday, you have the same people coming to Shabbat, so it’s nice that we have this bond.”

“I think it’s a nice way for any kind of Jew on campus to feel seen and recognized,” Green said.