Jewish students celebrate Hanukkah early at Hillel

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While a DJ spun tracks, students spun dreidels and crowded the dance floor during Hillel’s “Chanukah Chai-Lighter Party” Saturday night.

More than a religious gathering, Hillel and the Jewish Student Association aimed to make the evening a social event, a common goal for the organizations this year.

“We’re trying to get rid of a stigma that cool kids don’t come to Hillel,” said sophomore Daniel Peaceman, organizer for the event.

Hanukkah officially begins at sundown on Dec. 22, but the JSA and Hillel began the festivities early to reach out to the community before students leave for winter break.

After getting their fill of the holiday’s traditional foods like potato latkes, jelly doughnuts and chocolate gelt coins, the students crowded the dance floor enjoying the free cocktails and “mocktails,” for those under 21.

In the past semester, Hillel has held a variety of social events including Jewish speed dating and exam parties, in addition to charitable initiatives, to reach out to the University’s about 3,000 Jewish students as well as the greater GW community.

“We’re adding a social component,” JSA President Josh Abrams, a junior, said. “In the past, Hillel has been just a religious place, and it still is, but we want to open opportunities for people who aren’t all that observant to meet other Jews on campus without having to read the Bible or show up every time to services.”

Sophomore Harrison Rudolph has only attended one religious service, but came out to meet others in GW’s Jewish campus life.

“As someone who isn’t very observant, it’s very nice that events like this help you meet people and feel a part of the community,” Rudolph said.

“Even though I went to a Jewish high school, I’m not religious at all and this is a nice way to keep in touch with the community,” said Melanie Camhi, a freshman who helped set up the event.

The party drew more than 150 people, including a group of Australian Jews visiting the United States.

Glen Falkenstein, a member of the Austrailian Union of Jewish Students, said, “It’s such a wonderful community here, we’ve met so many great people and we would really like to bring this type of atmosphere back home with us.”

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