Why We Celebrate Hanukkah | Nights 1, 2, 3, & 4
Hello and Happy Hanukkah!
My name is Emi Naidoff and I am honored to introduce myself as the new student president of Penn State Hillel. I cannot wait to get started this January and continue the hard work Penn State Hillel has done on campus.
This Hanukkah, as I begin to prepare for my time as president, I think about what brought me to this new role. At the start of freshman year, Hillel became a significant part of my college experience. As a Chicago native, I took a risk by traveling over 600 miles to attend college at a place where I knew nobody and no one knew me. That decision was not easy knowing that I’d be leaving my home and the community I grew up in.
My first week on campus had its fair share of challenges from navigating the campus, to meeting new people and finding a community that I felt comfortable in. During that week I decided to attend a welcome event hosted by Hillel. When I arrived I immediately felt a sense of belonging. The Hillel community welcomed me with open arms; they provided me with opportunities to engage in my Judaism and to be a part of a community. With passion and love, this community has supported me through my personal and unique Jewish journey at Penn State.
This sense of belonging and “home”, along with unconditional support from the community, is why I became student president. This Hanukkah, I invite you to join me in celebrating our community - our success, our growth and our continued dedication to creating a space that celebrates and welcomes all of the the estimated 5,000 Jewish students.
Communication Sciences and Disorders 2020
Hanukkah, which means “dedication,” is the festival that commemorates the purification and rededication of the Temple following the destruction caused by the Greeks. Today, the story of Hanukkah offers us a time to rededicate ourselves to our Jewish values, roots, and traditions. As we lit the second candle, we dedicated ourselves to keeping the flame of Jewish religion, culture, and peoplehood burning bright so that it may be passed on from generation to generation, l’dor, v’dor.
Penn State Hillel is dedicated to helping Jewish students build an authentic understanding of their unique Jewish identities. Jewish pluralism is at the foundation of everything that Penn State Hillel does as an organization. With your support, we can continue to provide opportunities for students to explore, interact with, learn, and question Jewish topics; and we can offer programming and ritual observance around all major Jewish holidays including Hanukkah!
Tonight, as we light candle number 4, we celebrate hope. We know from the story of Hanukkah, hope played a key component in the Jewish people’s survival. Throughout the first destruction of the Temple, the military victory of the Maccabees against the Greeks, and the miracle of the oil that should have lasted one day but stayed burning for eight, hope was not lost. Several centuries later the Temple, hope was challenged again. When the Temple was destroyed by the Romans the rabbis began to argue that this destruction should end the celebration of Hanukkah, because without the Temple, what was the point? The point was hope. We learn from the story of Hanukkah that even though the Temple was destroyed, Jewish hope was not. The building may have been lost, but the story, the memories, and the light remained. What had happened once could happen again, but as we say in Israel’s national anthem, od lo avdah tikvatenu, “our hope is not destroyed.”