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A menorah in the Menorah Wars menorah-creating contest at Hillel at Ohio University on Wednesday, December 5th. This is the first time the Menorah Wars have taken place because it's the first time students are on campus around Hanukkah. 

Jewish community celebrates Hanukkah on campus early

Since Hanukkah takes place over Winter Break, Hillel is holding events early to allow the Jewish community on campus to celebrate together. 

Hillel at Ohio University will light their menorah early with pre-Hanukkah celebrations this week for students on campus. 

The holiday season is known for values of connecting with family and friends and reaching out to those in need. Although Hanukkah begins at sundown on Dec. 16 this year — after the university closes for Winter Break — Hillel is providing opportunities for students to celebrate and serve. 

“We wish that we were going to be here with school in session so we can celebrate together, but we are going to have one big pre-Hanukkah party,” said Lauren Goldberg, assistant director of Hillel at Ohio University. 

The storyline behind Hanukkah dates back to the Judean revolt in second century B.C. when the Jewish temple needed oil to burn and produce light from the menorah. Because of the time period, oil was difficult to come by. The Jews only had enough oil for a day of light, but instead, the oil burned for eight days in the temple. 

“It’s not as religious or important like Christmas is with Christians,” said Yolana Posta, a junior studying child and family studies. “With other Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, there’s more meaning behind them than Hanukkah.”

In addition to weekday celebrations, Hillel at Ohio University is offering events to entice a closer Hanukkah season and prolong the anxious week before tests on Monday. 

“Our Shabbat service and dinner on Friday at 6 p.m. is a great way for students to enter into their exam week rejuvenated, rested and focused and ready to conquer the end of the semester,” Goldberg said. 

Posta said she is thoroughly involved with Hillel and even became more religious when she arrived at college. She will be attending the services provided at Hillel and will celebrate by having dinner with her family back home.

“Hillel is very reconstructionist, meaning they are accepting of all different forms of Judaism –– Reformed Judaism, Conservative Judaism and Orthodox Judaism,” Posta said. “They really try to do a lot of different prayers and songs with the choir. The services aren’t traditional. People from the Athens community come, and I even invite my friends who aren’t Jewish to come with me.”

Goldberg said the traditional themes of Hanukkah can be found all year round. 

“Some of those themes that are particularly resonant this year are: finding light in the darkness, resilience, miracles, and peoplehood among others,” she added. 

Like previous years during the holiday season, Hillel is encouraging students to help out the local community through donating unused meal swipes on OU’s meal plans, as well as food they wish to buy and donate. 

“We are collecting canned food for local food pantries and asked that each student bring back food from their parent’s homes to donate locally,” Goldberg said. “This will be the culmination of our semester long ‘swipe-a-thon’ in which students use their left over swipes at a campus market, and bring healthy non-perishable food items to Hillel at Ohio University each Shabbat.”


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