Over the delicious smell of latkes and sweet taste of gelt, Jewish students at MU anticipate the celebration of the Festival of Light. Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday beginning sundown on Dec. 12 celebrating how a drop of oil produced eight days of light, is a joyful holiday for many Jewish students. Mizzou Hillel and the Jewish Student Organization partnered to help the student body celebrate.
In preparation for the holiday, Hillel and JSO have planned a variety of events to celebrate. According to senior Amanda Leventhal, Hillel’s social media intern, the organizations hope their activities will encourage students to celebrate, even if residential hall rules or other reasons on campus make doing so difficult.
“We want to obviously give people an opportunity to sort of get to do their traditions, especially if they’re living in like a dorm where they can’t light the candles in the room or for whatever reason they are unable to light the candles,” Leventhal said. “We want to give people an opportunity where they can come and be a part of that.”
In order to accomplish that, a Hanukkah party was held at Hillel on Dec. 3 for any students interested in celebrating, according to junior Sarah Kusnitz, vice president of religion and culture for JSO. Some of the activities at the party were menorah making, a dreidel tournament and free latkes.
“It’s sort of shuk-style, which means we sort of took this idea of an open market from Israel and we integrated it into this Hanukkah theme to make all types of different stations and like blasting music and having a really great time,” Kusnitz said.
Sophomore Mitchell Davis was excited to participate in the Hanukkah party this year after attending the year before. For Davis, the party was a great way to mark the end of a difficult semester.
“I came last year to the Hanukkah party, and it was one of those events that I just had so much fun attending,” Davis said. “It’s just a really great way to end the semester because like the semester is kind of stressful as is, so this is kind of like a nice way to say, ‘The semester’s almost over. Let’s just celebrate our accomplishments and also celebrate the Jewish holiday.’”
Another event being sponsored by Hillel and JSO is candle lighting. For the first three nights of Hanukkah, according to Kusnitz, Hillel will light the menorah and offer quiet places for students to study for finals.
“Hanukkah is during finals week this year, so it’s really hard to get people out of their dorms, out of the library, out of Memorial, out of wherever you study,” Kusnitz said. “So, we’re just going to do little study breaks where we come and we light the menorah, and then we’ll have maybe an activity, but mostly just like an open, quiet space where you can study with all of the other Jews around Mizzou.”
With these upcoming events, Davis believes Hillel is a great way for Jewish students at MU to connect and practice Judaism as one understanding group.
“So I think Hillel’s impact is [it] definitely allows students who, you know, they’re not necessarily the majority on campus, help them to, like, meet other people like them and get in touch with their faith at the same time,” Davis said. “And it’s just something that’s so important that I think a lot of Jewish students, I hope, can find out soon and all of the benefits that we offer here.”
Similarly with Davis, Kusnitz feels participating in these upcoming events can positively help students further their faith and contribute to the Jewish community.
“I think that it’s super important that we make time in our day [and] we make time in our life to do those Jewish things because, you know, if we don’t, what makes us Jewish?” Kusnitz said. “You can be Jewish, but if you don’t really practice it, then you’re not really fueling the fire. You’re just sort of like ‘I’m here.’”
Even for non-identifying Jews, Davis encourages students to participate in a Hillel or Chabad, a Hasidic Jewish center, events in order to better understand Judaism’s intricate culture.
“If you have the opportunity to try experiencing something at Hillel or Chabad or anything that is Jewish related, definitely take it [in stride] and go … ,” Davis said. “Being, like, mid-Missouri, there aren’t a lot of Jewish people here. It’s a culture a lot of people don’t know about, and it would be such a good thing for people to learn about.”
Edited by Brooke Collier | firstname.lastname@example.org