AU Jewish community comes together for Hanukkah
Students light menorahs, eat jelly doughnuts and attend club-sponsored events to celebrate the Festival of Lights
Hanukkah began on the evening of Nov. 28 and ended Monday, prompting a series of Jewish-affiliated clubs and organizations to host celebrations at American University.
AU Hillel hosted a community candle lighting Nov. 30, where student members lit up the McDowell Hall formal lounge with flickering flames, traditional Jewish prayers and an array of doughnuts.
Shelby Rose, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, helped serve doughnuts at the event. Although this time of year is hectic with finals and exams, Rose said that Jewish affinity clubs took care of the planning.
“I’ve been mainly going to different events on campus,” Rose said. “There’s been candle lighting the past two nights and food.”
Hillel’s Jewish Queer Collective hosted a rainbow challah baking event and Hillel holds a Shabbat dinner on Friday nights.
Valerie Houghton, a senior in the CAS, attended two Chabad-sponsored events: a Hanukkah party and a menorah lighting off-campus. While Houghton said she typically spends the holiday with her family, she is glad to be surrounded by friends this year.
“As a Jewish student at AU, there’s been a good amount of events I can attend,” Houghton said. “[Hanukkah] is one of the harder holidays to be away from home for, and I think at AU, they’ve done a lot to make us feel like we’re at home even when we’re not.”
Other Jewish students find ways to celebrate outside of club events. Simon Huynh, a freshman in the CAS, said he put an electric menorah on his windowsill and plans to make latkes to share with friends.
Though he has not attended any organized Hanukkah events on campus, Huynh feels more cultural unity at AU than in his hometown in Massachusetts, which was predominately white and Christian, he said.
“I think the Jewish community on campus is a lot bigger than it was at home, so it definitely feels like [AU has] a lot of stuff going on,” Huynh said. “There’s a lot more diversity and cultural appreciation here with all the different clubs, like AU Hillel and the Asian American Student Union.”
Huynh, who is Jewish and Vietnamese, said he enjoys Hanukkah because it is a time to connect with that half of his family and culture.
“As someone who’s not really a religious person, the significance of Hanukkah to me is being able to celebrate and connect with [the maternal] side of my family,” Huynh said.
Huynh said he wants to attend more events put on by Jewish organizations in the future.
“There’s so many events on campus with both Hillel and Chabad, and if I ever wanted to light a menorah or just talk to someone who’s the same religion as me, I would have somewhere to go on every night of Hanukkah,” Houghton said.