By Jenna Bloom
For the Diamondback
The University of Maryland Bais Menachem Chabad Jewish Student Center hosted its annual 10-foot menorah lighting ceremony on Monday to welcome the second night of Hanukkah.
President Darryll Pines and over a hundred students attended the event, which was held on the front steps of McKeldin Library.
Rabbi Eli Backman usually holds the event on the first night of Hanukkah, but this year he wanted to give students an opportunity to stay home and celebrate the first night with their families.
“My goal is to kick off Hanukkah in a really big way for the student body, in a proud, exciting way, in a way that they can come get what they need … to celebrate,” Backman said.
UMD Chabad set up a table with free gelt, latkes and dreidels so students had everything they needed to properly celebrate the holiday.
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About an hour after sunset, students began gathering around the menorah while festive music played. Despite it being a cold night, the atmosphere was filled with excitement.
Liron Karpati explained how he is involved with Chabad back home and wanted to see what the university’s community was doing for Hanukkah.
“Well, the food’s always a plus,” the sophomore computer science and mathematics major said. “But I wanted to see what Maryland’s vibrant Jewish community is like.”
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Backman and Pines stood in front of the menorah to share some words of celebration for the Jewish community before lighting it.
“The idea behind the menorah lighting outdoors in a public place is to share the miracle,” said Backman. “We make sure that the light spreads out into the darkness of the world and brings warmth and positivity and lights us all up.”
Backman passed it off to Pines, who attended the ceremony for the first time as president of this university last year.
“Hanukkah is one of the incredible opportunities where we share in this cultural experience that has come to us from the Jewish faith,” Pines said. “The points of life that it represents for all of us is hope for all of us to see through the darkness, reduce our fears and to have hope going forward.”
After Pines’ remarks, Backman announced that the Department of Resident Life will allow for select dorm lobbies to light candles for Hanukkah. The announcement applies to three dorms on South Campus and one on North Campus, the rabbi said.
Backman lit the candles while Pines held the rabbi’s ladder. The crowd cheered as the flames lit up and erupted into song. Lyric sheets were handed out as the group sang the Hanukkah blessing and “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,” among other songs.
Afterward, the Backman family passed out a few traditional Hanukkah treats as students mingled. The spirits were high as the community ate and caught up on what they did over Thanksgiving break.
“I just wanted to celebrate with my friends, we all decided to come out tonight,” Jessica Cerkovnik, a freshman finance major said. “Just have some hot apple cider and latkes and have a fun time.”
The menorah lighting event began about 25 years ago, when Backman first joined this university’s Chabad Center.
“The menorah has always been lit facing the outside … it always adds in an element of … sharing a miracle,” Backman said. “This is kind of just taking that concept, which is already in [the story of Hanukkah], and bringing it to the next level.”
The menorah lighting ceremony was a part of the university Chabad’s week of events celebrating Hanukkah, including an open house and another menorah lighting outside The Diner in North Campus.
Freshman Jaclyn Welfeld regularly attends Chabad events at the university. “I feel very comfortable and I love the family atmosphere,” the information science major said.