Jewish Pride and Respect for Everyone Are Themes of Hanukkah Celebration

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A “CANorah” made of donated canned goods was erected during the Hanukkah celebration. The food later was donated to the food pantry. Photo by Katie Giles

By Katie Giles

More than 150 people gathered in the cold Tuesday night to celebrate Hanukkah at the Phi Delta Theta gates on Miami University’s campus.

“The Jewish people are alive and well, thriving, and we’re so happy to be here celebrating Hanukkah at Miami University,” Rabbi Yossi Greenberg of the campus chapter of Chabad said.

In the wake of the Oct. 27 shooting of that killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, those gathered in Oxford, like many celebrating the holiday around the country, said they were determined to make this Hanukkah one to remember.

Tuesday’s celebration was hosted by Chabad and Jewish Heritage Programs (JHP), both Jewish student organizations on campus, and the Oxford Food Pantry.

After the Pittsburgh tragedy, the organizers “wanted to do something to give back,” said JHP President Kenzie Bernstein, so they created a “CANorah,” a menorah made of donated canned goods that were then donated to the food pantry.

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem after the Jewish people liberated it in 165 BCE from Syrian Greek conquerors. The menorah is an eight-branch candelabrum with a central candle that is used to light one of the branches on each of eight consecutive nights.

Emily Pure, social chair for JHP, planned the event with Chabad, taking care to create an event at which everyone could feel safe and included. “We were so nervous about the turnout, but this is more than we could have asked for,” she said.

Miami President Gregory Crawford spoke at the event, saying he was there to “celebrate all that unites us and everything that brings us together, but also all our unique differences and how we celebrate those.”

Miami President Gregory Crawford spoke to the crowd celebrating Hanukkah on Tuesday night at the Phi Delta Theta gates on the corner of the campus. Photo by Katie Giles

He talked about inclusion on campus. “As we think about this special time together tonight, I’d love for all of us to reflect and commit to respect for everybody, and everybody on campus, and everyone’s beliefs,” he said.

Bernstein said the Jewish community has received much support from the university. “It’s important for us to continue to do things on campus and get out there and spread Jewish culture, especially after the shooting,” the rabbi said.

Greenberg made a point of reflecting on October’s tragedy.

“As we stand over here, we remember that just one month ago, we stood here together as a community and we cried. Tonight, we stand over here and we celebrate.”

Greenberg also told the crowd, “Hanukkah is the message of freedom of religion. Hanukkah is the message of Jewish pride.”

Participants at Tuesday’s Hanukkah celebration at Miami’s Phi Delta Theta gates lit candles to celebrate the Festival of Lights. Photo by Katie Giles