Jewish community brings first night of Hanukkah to light

By Anna Spoerre, @ASpoerre_DE

Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell pressed a small button to light the first candle of an electronic 6-foot menorah Sunday night at the Old Main Lounge in the Student Center to commemorate the beginning of Hanukkah.

University and Carbondale community members gathered to celebrate the first of eight days of the Jewish holiday.

Hanukkah celebrates the Jewish people reclaiming their temple more than 2,000 years ago from the Syrian-Greeks who persecuted and prevented them from practicing their faith freely, according to Rabbi Mendel Scheiman, who led the event. At the time, the Jewish people only found enough oil to last one day when trying to light the temple’s menorah. However, he said, the oil burned for eight days and the celebration of Hanukkah was born.



“We’re very honored and privileged to be able to light a menorah without any worry or concern of any discrimination or hate,” Scheiman said.

The crowd of about 40 people applauded after the first candle was lit, and proceeded to listen to Hanukkah music, play dreidel — a traditional Hanukkah game — and eat an assortment foods such potato pancakes called latkes and sufganiyah, a jelly-filled doughnut.

Aleksandra Adach, a graduate student in sociology from Poland, said though she does not practice the Jewish faith, she recently discovered she has Jewish heritage. This was the second Hanukkah celebration she has attended. She tried a raspberry-filled sufganiyah, and said it tasted similar to ones she had in Poland.

Two men sat across the room from Adach playing traditional Hanukkah music on a guitar and cello for guests to enjoy.

Ben Friedman, a senior from Highland Park studying communication studies, said he was happy about the turnout of the event. Friedman, president of the university’s Hillel Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, said it was nice to have a menorah somewhere on campus among the many Christmas trees.

Colwell, who had never celebrated Hanukkah prior to Sunday, said it taught him a lot about Jewish culture. Scheiman gave Colwell a $2 bill as part of a traditional Hanukkah exchange of gelt, or money.

“The menorah symbolizes the commitment to preserve and encourage liberty for all to worship openly and freely,” Colwell said. “Every student needs to feel supported, and this is a small piece that I can contribute to that.”

 Anna Spoerre can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.