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Jewish club celebrates Hanukkah

Molly Madden | Thursday, December 11, 2008

During the holiday season, it’s important to remember that Christmas is not the only celebration that is taking place during this time of year.

For this reason, the Jewish Club of Notre Dame hosted a party that celebrated the Jewish feast of Hanukkah at Welsh Family Hall on Wednesday evening.

“With this event we hope to establish the story of Hanukkah,” Jewish Club president Jenna Zigman said. “Part of our mission is to expose Catholics to Jewish tradition and history.”

The event included traditional Hanukkah food as well as the teaching of the story of Hanukkah.

The feast of Hanukkah commemorates a rebellion of the Jews in Judea against the Syrian king Antiochus in 175 BC. King Antiochus tried to stifle the Jewish religious practices to such a degree that the Jews, led by the Maccabee family, created a successful revolt that drove the Syrians out of Judea.

After the rebellion, the Jews needed to reconsecrate their Holy Temple, which had been defiled by the Syrians. Most importantly, the Jews needed to rekindle their everlasting light in the temple. There was only enough oil to burn the flame for one day. However, the flame stayed lit for eight whole days.

Today, the Hanukkah celebration lasts for eight days to commemorate the eight days that the everlasting light remained lit. Attendees at the party on Wednesday learned that on each night of Hanukkah, one candle is lit on a special candelabrum called a menorah.

Despite the importance of Hanukkah, partygoers on Wednesday were told that it is a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar when compared to major feast days such as Passover and Yom Kippur. The holiday increased in importance mainly because it gave Jews something to celebrate at the same time that Christians were celebrating Christmas.

Today, Jews exchange gifts every night of the eight-day feast. This gift-giving is also mainly a result of the proximity of Hanukkah to Christmas.

“One of the reasons this event is important is because it is right around Christmas time,” Zigman said.

The Jewish Club served traditional Hanukkah food such as potato pancakes, known as latkes, and jelly doughnuts. The food for Hanukkah is traditionally items that are cooked in grease to commemorate the miracle of the oil.

The main purpose of the event was to bring greater awareness to a holiday that many students might not know too much about.

“I hope that students will gain a greater appreciation of the Jewish faith,” Zigman said. “At a Catholic university, it is important to know about Jewish traditions because Jewish history has such a large impact on Catholicism. I also think it is nice for Catholics to learn about Judaism because learning about another religion can help one strengthen his own religion.”