Hanukkah away from home

Now that the Turkey’s been carved and pumpkin pie eaten, the 2001 holiday season is officially under way. Pentagon City and Georgetown shops are festively decorated and prepared for their busiest time of the year. Students at GW have begun their holiday shopping. GW’s Jewish students, however, must finish up their shopping soon, because Hanukkah is just around the corner.

Unlike last year, Hanukkah, which begins sundown Dec. 9, does not fall during GW’s winter break. Jewish students will celebrate the eight-day holiday at school. While Hanukkah is not the holiest holiday in the Jewish religion, it certainly is one of the most celebratory and traditional.

Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of lights. It commemorates the victory over the Assyrians by the Macabees in 165 B.C.E. and the miracle that kept the Temple lamp burning for eight days, while they only had enough oil for one.

Some students like freshman Stephanie Ostrowsky will miss some of these traditions at home.

“Every year we would have friends over and we’d have a big gift exchange and my mom would make potato latkes,” Ostrowsky said.

Freshman Marin Stein said she wishes Hanukkah fell during winter break. She said she will say blessings over the phone with her mother each night.

“I have some family who lives in the area, so I will go there and celebrate one night with them,” Stein said. “There are also some Jews on my floor. One of my friends has a Velcro menorah, so we are all going to say the prayers together.”

Since she cannot celebrate with her family, sophomore Sara Hodgdon will observe Hanukkah with her friends.

“Last year there was a little party in our dorm and we had a Secret Santa/Hanukkah Harry gift exchange,” Hodgdon said.

Many students like freshman Sarah Weinertraub are expecting a College Hanukkah Kit from their synagogue at home that will contain menorahs, dreidels, candles, some traditional food and Hanukkah gelt, which is a chocolate candy.

“I am going to light the menorah and say the blessings somewhere, that is the most important thing,” Weinertraub said. “I also want to get a potato latke recipe and make them with my friends.”

At GW, it can be difficult to continue some of the traditions such as lighting the menorah, a candelabra or making potato latkes (potato pancakes) because of residence hall restrictions.

“I’d like to light a menorah in my room, but I’m afraid that I will set off the smoke detector, so I will probably just go to Hillel to celebrate,” Ostrowsky said.

Sophomore Aliza Yudkoff, an active member at Hillel, said the Jewish community center has about 100 menorahs for students to light. Like many students, Yudkoff will receive small packages around Hanukkah.

“My mother sends me big Hanukkah packages with cookies, little presents and a menorah,” Yudkoff said. “We exchange major presents when I get home.”

This year Hillel will host events for students to help celebrate Hanukkah. “Hanukkahpalooza” will take place in the Hippodrome Sunday at 7 p.m. with performances by American University’s Black Eyed Susan, GW talent Adam Richman and GW comic group Recess. There will also be a menorah lighting with free food Dec. 11 at 8 p.m.

Sophomore Baylene Wacks said she misses singing songs with her family and friends at home. She said she will take part in these traditions when she co-hosts Hanukkahpalooza this year with Aliza Yudkoff.

She said Hillel is also sponsoring a clothing drive and will give students gifts benefiting them during finals.

“This will be an opportunity for students to come together to celebrate Hanukkah as a GW community,” Wacks said.

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