This past chilly Thursday night, the weather cleared up just in time for Chabad at Binghamton University’s Menorah Car Parade and lighting event to celebrate the fifth night of Hanukkah.
The event began with the car parade, which changed locations multiple times throughout its half-hour experience. At first, all of the cars were bunched up together in front of the BU Downtown Center (UDC) on Washington Street with menorahs placed on top. The atmosphere was lively, to say the least, including fun Hanukkah music, sounds of laughter and conversation and lots and lots of honking. A police car and Harpur’s Ferry vehicles drove around honking cars and celebrating their Hanukkah spirit. The vehicles traversed through portions of Downtown, including Court Street all the way to University Plaza, finally ending the parade on campus, driving around the Brain.
Hanukkah, sometimes called the Festival of Lights, is a special Jewish holiday spanning a duration of eight nights. It recounts the victory of a group of rebel Jews called the Maccabees, when they got back their temple from the Greek-Syrians. The temple needed a holy light to burn at all times, and they only had enough light for one night, but miraculously, it lasted for eight. To spread more awareness of this holiday, Yeshiva students, or students of the academy of Torah learning, came up with the idea of having a car menorah. This began a long-standing tradition that is extremely popular today in Hanukkah car parades.
Yael Bruk, a sophomore double-majoring in biology and philosophy, listed Hanukkah as her favorite Jewish holiday, and said she found the parade part of the event to be essential.
“People who couldn’t make it to the Spine tonight saw it going around campus and [saw] the excitement of the Jewish holiday, which I thought was pretty cool,” Bruk said.
On the Spine of BU’s campus, a big, nine-foot menorah stood surrounded by a jovial crowd of people dancing and singing. A couple of people were dressed up in dreidel costumes dancing around to Israeli and Hanukkah music played by an enthusiastic DJ under a tent. The music quieted, and Rabbi Yisroel Ohana of the Rohr Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life revved up the crowd explaining the importance of the holiday before handing the mic off to Eliana Sastow, social chair of Chabad at Binghamton and a junior majoring in psychology. Spearheading the event, Sastow introduced a handful of important figures in the BU Jewish community, such as Maya Hoff, a sophomore studying psychology and the person in charge of Chabad at Binghamton’s annual toy drive, who is aiming to raise $35,000 for children with cancer. The last person she introduced was Zack Ben-Ezra, president of Chabad at Binghamton and a senior majoring in history, who then began to light the candles.
What followed was a joyous occasion of crowds of people conversing while drinking hot cider and eating donuts and potato latkes. The chocolate gelt was thrown off equipped with parachutes off the Menorah Mobile, a van rented out by one of the attendants covered with a vibrant menorah light on the side of it. Benjamin Helwa, a junior majoring in biology, said he enjoyed the festivities the night offered with his friends and was impressed by the turnout.
“I think it’s really fun there is a lot of people that came up,” Helwa said. “Even though it’s really cold, everyone is having fun and running around with a lot of spirit.”
Sastow felt the event turned out great. Her role in the event was quite important, as she had to work out the logistics and do PR for the event. She said she loved the community aspect of the parade, and how it reflected the expression of the holiday as well.
“I think Hanukkah is a really nice holiday that a lot of people know about,” Sastow said. “And being able to show our Jewish pride publicly and not be ashamed of it is a really beautiful thing.”