IUPUI Students Celebrate Hanukkah

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“Hanukkah is a time for me to be with family and friends and loved ones and celebrate our heritage and our traditions,” IUPUI student Belinda Oberman said.

Oberman was among the Jewish students and faculty celebrating Hanukkah at the Campus Center this week. The Jewish Student Association informed others about the holiday, listened to Hanukkah songs and offered oil-based food such as doughnuts to those who shared what they knew or thought they knew about the holiday.

Members of the Jewish Student Association at IUPUI, from left to right: advisers Jeremy Price and Rachael Vettese, students Belinda Oberman and Caleb Potts.

Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, which fell on Dec. 2 this year. The festival lasts for eight nights and days, and will end at nightfall on Dec. 10. The holiday recognizes the victory of the Maccabees, a group of Jewish rebels who retook Judea from the Seleucid Empire over 2,100 years ago.

Jeremy Price, assistant professor of education and the faculty adviser for the Jewish Student Association, explained why this was important and the reason that the festival lasts for eight days.

“They were able to retake the city of Jerusalem, retake the Jewish temple in Jerusalem,” Price said of the Maccabees. “And what they did was they went to relight the eternal lamp, which is supposed to be lit at all times."

Price said, “Apparently they only had oil enough to light the lamp for one day but the oil lasted for eight days instead.”

This is known as the miracle of the cruse of oil, which is recognized by the lighting of the candles of the menorah during Hanukkah.

Oberman said that the miracle is one of the most important things about the holiday for her.

“Remember the miracle and that miracles do happen,” Oberman said.

Price said that while Hanukkah has significance, it is not a major holiday like Yom Kippur or Passover.

“It was originally a commemoration of a military and political event, and it was reframed as a religious event,” Price said of Hanukkah.

Price said that Hanukkah had more importance attached to it due to the festival being adjacent to Christmas. Aside from its origins, Price believes the most important part of Hanukkah is celebrating the Jewish community and identity.

“What it means to me is reminding ourselves that we’re Jewish in a non-Jewish society,” Price said. “It’s also a way to be together with family and community.”

Oberman recalled memories of celebrating Hanukkah with her family.

“I remember celebrating and lighting candles with my family every night as a kid,” Oberman said. “Or like going to Hanukkah parties and feeling a sense of unity with other people.”

This blue character is an anthropomorphic dreidel, a kind of spinning top often played with during Hanukkah.

Rachael Vettese, a residence coordinator for housing and residence life at IUPUI, remembered similar experiences.

“Lighting the candles when I was a kid, I loved during that. Making latkes with my mom, having my aunts’ family over, my grandma over,” Vettese said. “You get to come together with a group of people who are very much share similar life experiences to you and really just celebrate life.”

Caleb Potts, an IUPUI student, said that he didn’t have Hanukkah memories like these because he didn't celebrate it during his childhood.

“Hanukkah for me is an interesting piece of Jewish history and Jewish culture that is not something that I had celebrated growing up and not in my early adult life,” Potts said.

Potts said he began looking forward to Hanukkah later in his adult life, learning more about the holiday from his fellow students.

“Within the past four or five years, I started to be interested in it and research the tradition,” Potts said. “Since joining the Jewish Student Association, I started to learn more about it through the club.”

Oberman said that she hopes that more people learn about Hanukkah, either through the Jewish Student Association or by themselves.

“I’d like to encourage people, if you can, to learn about Hanukkah and learn about Jewish religion and learn about someone else,” Oberman said.

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