With Hanukkah falling during the last two weeks of the semester, Jewish students at Binghamton University will be spending the holiday away from home this year.
Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish holiday celebrating the victory of the Maccabees against the Syrians in the second century B.C., began on Dec. 2 and will conclude on Dec. 10, a few days before finals are over. To celebrate, Jewish people use a menorah, lighting candles for each night. Families also sing songs and eat jelly doughnuts to celebrate.
But for students away from their families and busy preparing for finals, celebrating the holiday can be difficult. Ori Karudo, a senior majoring in computer science, said he was disappointed when he realized he wouldn’t be celebrating Hanukkah with his family this year.
“Being without my family here is kind of hard,” Karudo said. “We all have those memories of lighting [candles] with our family, singing songs with our family, so being away from that and having to FaceTime is kind of hard.”
Because of his feelings on celebrating the holiday, Karudo, who is the president of Chabad at Binghamton, helped plan events throughout Hanukkah to encourage students to celebrate the holiday. On the first night of Hanukkah, Chabad held a menorah parade in which cars with menorahs mounted on them drove from Downtown Binghamton to the University campus.
On Tuesday, Chabad coordinators hosted various holiday parties in their homes. Rochel Chein, co-director of education at Chabad, hosted a party for freshmen and sophomores and said she wanted to make students feel at home and comfortable despite being on campus.
“We’re trying to have something each night of Hanukkah,” Chein said. “Tonight we’re having parties at home, since being in the house with the kids with the menorahs and the dreidels, we feel at home. Then there are events that are more exciting, like the menorah parade, but this is more of a comfortable feeling.”
Other Jewish student organizations, such as Hillel, are also holding events throughout the week. On Wednesday, Hillel held its annual Hanukkah party, providing students with food and games to celebrate the holiday.
Jennifer Weinstein, a sophomore majoring in business administration, said the events are helping her celebrate away from her family. Although she is upset that she is spending Hanukkah away from home, she is grateful for the different activities and events that are taking place on campus.
“It’s very disappointing to not be able to spend the holidays with the rest of my family when they’re all together, but it’s nice that the organizations here put on so many events to make it feel that it’s the holiday season for us,” Weinstein said. “They really help us do everything that we need in order to fulfill our obligations.”
Chabad is also currently running a Hanukkah toy drive, looking to raise $30,000 in order to provide toys for the kids of Chai Lifeline, an organization that helps kids with illnesses have a happy and normal childhood.
Students are also making efforts to virtually connect with their families through FaceTime and Skype, simulating the experience of being home with relatives. Weinstein said she FaceTimed her family on Monday, and Eden Stein, an undeclared freshman, said she has also been calling her parents.
“It’s weird to be away from home for the first time during Hanukkah, but I am still trying to call my parents and FaceTime them while they light their menorah and while I light mine so that we can be together in spirit during Hanukkah,” Stein said. “These events definitely help bring the Hanukkah spirit and mood to campus and help though I’m away from home on Hanukkah.”
Joshua Marcus, a sophomore double-majoring in psychology and political science, said he has come to enjoy celebrating the holiday at the University.
“I actually love being on campus for Hanukkah because you can spend it with your friends and it’s really a nice, warm environment in Binghamton to be around,” Marcus said. “There are parties all over the place. There’s Hillel, Chabad, there was the whole menorah parade. You don’t feel isolated or alone, if anything you feel like you’re more involved in the holiday because you all come together knowing that you’re all away from home and purposefully try to make it from like a regular atmosphere to a Jewish atmosphere.”