Students celebrate Hanukkah on campus during classes

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Photo by Alex DeBuhr

This year, Hanukkah was celebrated at sundown Nov. 28 to sundown Dec. 6.

As 2021 comes to an end, the holiday season moves into full swing. Among those holidays is Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday celebrated sometime between late November to the middle of December depending on the year.

This year the Jewish Festival of Lights began at sundown Nov. 28 and lasted until sundown Dec. 6.

“We normally refer to Hanukkah as the ‘Festival of Lights’ and it’s an eight-day holiday that celebrates the story of the Maccabees,” Ben Abrams, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said. “There was light in the temple that [the Jewish people] had to keep on at all times … so they filled it but it seemed like they only had enough oil for one day, but it lasted for eight days.”

Hanukkah follows the Jewish calendar and occurs on the 25th day of Kislev, the ninth month of that Hebrew calendar. However, the Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar whereas America follows the Gregorian calendar, which is solar. This means that Hanukkah tends to shift dates, and therefore Jewish students must be at college during the holiday this year.

Normally when students aren’t on campus, they celebrate with their families and exchange presents with each other.

“My family will have a little Hanukkah party where we eat traditional Jewish food,” Abrams said. “Every day, when I’m home, we’ll light the candles for whatever day it is, and we’ll open one present each.”

Completing assignments and preparing for finals make the celebration more difficult for Jewish students. Abrams mentioned that it can be hard to find people to celebrate with and build a connection with others.

“I could do things with friends, but I don’t know many other Jewish people on campus, so it’s not really easy to talk to other people about Hanukkah,” Abrams said. “I know it’s Hanukkah, and I’m thinking about that, but it’s not really something I can effectively celebrate.” 

Abrams also mentioned he sometimes feels overshadowed by the prevalence of Christmas on campus. 

“I know it’s not a large population of campus [that is Jewish] but it does sting when … I walk into Raynor Library and there’s a giant Christmas tree and there’s a bunch of Christmas decorations, and I don’t really feel represented by that,” Abrams said.  

Aside from a small display in the Alumni Memorial Union during the holiday, there were little to no Hanukkah decorations on campus.

Overall, Jewish students feel underrepresented and overlooked. Ben Lash, a senior in the College of Communication, wishes that the university would do more to help everyone of different denominations feel more welcome and accepted. 

“In terms of acknowledging other cultures, especially Hanukkah and religious holidays during this time of year that aren’t just Christmas, I’m sure there’s more that could be done,” Lash said. “For a school that takes so much pride in being diverse, I would like to see [Marquette] show that more, rather than just say it.”

While celebrating Hanukkah on campus can be difficult, students have found ways to make things feel a little more tolerable. Lash described how he celebrated with his family on the first night. While he was there, his parents gave him his presents for the rest of the week. Each night, he opened a different present along with his prayers and lighting the menorah. 

“It’s been a source of connection when I’m away from home,” Lash said. 

Throughout these struggles, students have at least had their memories to help them. Lash explained a fun story from his childhood about Hanukkah. 

When he was a child, Lash’s parents would light the candles on the menorah, but they also had a tapestry of a menorah that they would hang on the wall during Hanukkah. Each night Lash would go up to the menorah tapestry and stick little fabric flames onto each candle as his way of participating in the holiday.

While the rest of campus can go home in a week to celebrate their respective holidays, some Jewish students weren’t afforded the same opportunity.

 This story was written by Izzy Fonfara Drewel. She can be reached at isabella.fonfaradrewel@marquette.edu.

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