The first night of Hanukkah was Sunday, December 2. The University of New Hampshire’s Hillel chapter, along with the UNH and Seacoast Chabad Jewish Center, held a public menorah lighting on the Corner of Pettee Brook Lane and Main Street to usher in the holiday. The eight-day celebration, also known as the Festival of Lights, was kicked off with speeches from Rabbi Berel Slavaticki, UNH President James W. Dean Jr. and Hillel’s chair Jordyn Haime. All in attendance were glad that the rain stopped just before the ceremonies began outside.
President Dean thanked the Rabbi for inviting him to speak and stated, “I’d like to extend my very warmest wishes for Hanukkah to all of you and to the entire Jewish community here in Durham, at UNH, and in the Seacoast.” He went on to talk about the significance of light in the holiday. “I hope that these holy days will remind us to be part of the light for others.” Rabbi Berel then introduced Jordyn Haime to speak.
“This is a holiday for me that has always been very special,” Haime stated. “I am very grateful to have this amazing menorah lighting here.” Jordyn Haime, a student majoring in English/journalism and International Affairs, brought up the issue of how Jewish holidays are seemingly ignored by the university. “Hanukkah fell early in the year so I will not be able to go home and celebrate with my family and it’s hurtful but that’s how the UNH calendar works out.” She went on to express how excited Hillel was with the menorah lighting. “I never thought I’d see this here. This is a blessing for the Jewish community here and all of the Jewish students on campus.” After robust applause, Rabbi Berel spoke.
Rabbi Berel stated that, “as we prepare to light these holy candles, we pay tribute to the survival of the Jewish people to continue to practice our faith. We are here today in Durham, New Hampshire, standing strong and proud. Today we stand here, free to celebrate our cherished traditions, not only in our homes but out in our community.”
After the speeches, President Dean lit the torch that Rabbi Berel used to light the menorah. Amongst cheers and singing. Rabbi Berel lit two candles on the menorah. Once the menorah was lit, everyone went inside the Chabad Jewish Center to continue the celebration. There was food, fun and laughter. A fire dancing group entitled Fire Amusement, comprising of two students from Salem State University, performed for all of the attendees. The fire was replaced with LED bulbs due to the indoor nature of the event.
Various UNH students attended the Hanukkah event and gave their thoughts on the lighting as well as the Jewish community on campus.
“I think it was beautiful, especially Jordyn’s speech,” Sophie Pollock, a Hillel member and psychology student originally from Singapore stated.
She discussed the issue of holiday observance from the university.
“My brother goes to SUNY Albany and he gets a day off for Yom Kippur, but I kind of understand why we don’t because of the small Jewish population at UNH. It would be nice to have some holidays observed, at least acknowledged that it’s there.”
Another Hillel member and its business manager, Jake Leonard, shared similar sentiments on the lighting.
“I think it’s great! I’m a senior now and there hasn’t been anything last this event in the last three or four years that I’ve been here. It’s nice to see more of a presence on campus because we are such a small minority here,” Leonard said.
He went on to talk about the holiday observance issue.
“I don’t expect to have six or seven days off for Hanukkah, it wouldn’t be realistic, but It could be much better though.”
As of now the university does not officially observe any Jewish holiday.
The menorah will be absent from its Main Street location for the rest of Hanukkah because the town of Durham will not allow it to stay. The reason given to Chabad Jewish Center, in operation for about two months at its UNH branch, was that they had not given the town enough notice, but that next year Durham will allow the Menorah to be raised for the entire duration of the holiday. Rabbi Berel stated that they will move the menorah to the Mall at Fox Run in Newington.
“We’re going to place it there for the entirety of Hanukkah. Next to the Christmas area by Sears. We’ll also have a ceremony there this Thursday at 5 p.m.”
The Festival of Lights can occur anytime between late November to late December. This year Hanukkah is observed from sundown on December 2 until nightfall on December 10.