Campus celebrates Hanukkah with Hillel

Annual event acts fundraises for Heifer International Foundation


Brittany Adams

Shoshana Robbins, ’19, makes latkes, a traditional Jewish dish, for Hillel’s annual Hanukkah dinner.

Hillel, a student-led organization that supports and encourages Jewish life and culture on campus, hosted its annual Hanukkah celebration on Wednesday, Dec. 7. The celebration took place at 5 p.m. in Schultz Banquet Hall, and featured food, music and games for participants. In preparation for the event, Hillel teamed up with Parkhurst Dining services to prepare the food. Josh Cohen, ’18, president of Hillel, helped Faculty Adviser Adrienne Krone prepare the food.

“Parkhurst made half of the latkes, and we made the other half,” Cohen said.

Latkes are potato pancakes that serve as a traditional treat during Hanukkah celebrations. For the event, Hillel also bought donuts from Tops Supermarket in Meadville and provided homemade applesauce. The food that was available at the event represented a traditional Hebrew celebration.

“The latkes and sufganiyahs [donuts] are both fried foods. They represent the oil that was used in the Hebrew scripture,” Cohen said.

The latkes and sufganiyahs are both fried foods. They represent the oil that was used in the Hebrew scripture.

— Josh Cohen, '18

For the event, the Office of Physical Plant set up three rows of round tables for the participants to sit and three longer tables close to the kitchen where members of Hillel volunteered to serve food. Two other members of Hillel sat at a table at the entrance to sell tickets at the door.

The event is part of a larger movement called “Fill the Arc,” a campaign led by the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life to raise money for charity. All of the proceeds were donated to the Heifer International Foundation.

“Different religious groups on campus are taking part in planning fundraisers to provide funds to different charitable organizations,” Cohen said.

Cohen said this event differed from previous Hanukkah celebrations because in the past Hillel’s Hanukkah party was a free event.

This year Hillel printed and sold tickets for one dollar each to raise money for a nonprofit organization called Heifer International Foundation. Whenever a group raises a certain amount of money, a donation is placed in their name.

“All the proceeds from this event are going towards a water buffalo,” Krone said.

Krone said that Heifer International Foundation is an organization that helps fight poverty and hunger through self-sustainability. The water buffaloes help farmers plow fields and carry heavy loads. Proceeds help purchase animals in order to help sustain families.

Hanukkah itself is a Jewish holiday that honors a miracle that occurred during the re-dedication of the second temple in Jerusalem in 165 B.C. according to the pamphlet at the event. The oil in the lamp of Judah Maccabee was meant to burn for only one day yet lasted eight nights. This led to the tradition of lighting the candles of the Menorah, a candle holder for each of the eight days of Hanukkah.

In addition to learning the Hebrew roots of the celebration, students were offered the opportunity to participate in holiday games and crossword puzzles.

One activity that students participated in was the dreidel game. A dreidel is a four-faced spinning top with four Hebrew characters on each face. The four sides read shin, hay, gimel and nun. The four Hebrew words together translate to “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham,” which means “a great miracle happened here” in English.

Chocolate coins and dreidels were provided on each table for students and faculty to use. Each student would begin by placing one coin in the middle of the table and took turns spinning the dreidel. Depending on how the dreidel rolled a student could win or lose half or all of their coins. If the dreidel landed on “nun,” nothing was won or lost.

Each table was provided with a crossword puzzle on which students could search for relevant Hanukkah terms such as “menorah,” “eight” and “Judah.”

By 5:30 p.m. the banquet hall was packed, as members of the Allegheny community arrived to celebrate with Hillel.

The participants were free to come and go throughout the evening. No formal activities were planned.

Sydney Lewis, ’19, was elected as Hillel’s president for next year on Friday, Dec. 2.

“The event’s pretty low-key. It gives students a chance to come and hang out and learn about our holiday,” Lewis said.

Hillel participates in Shabbat every Friday and holds monthly service projects. It will be hosting a Seder Meal for Passover in the spring.