Celebrating the Light Together

Vibrant Chanukah Festivities on Campus Create Unique Holiday Experience

As Yeshiva University students mark the holiday of Chanukah this week, the atmosphere on campus is rich with moments of togetherness, inspiration and shared celebration.

Whether they’re making their own donuts at Chanukahfest, dancing with Holocaust survivors at a synagogue Chanukah party, or collecting toys to distribute as holiday presents to needy children, students are coming together to spread the holiday spirit. Here are just a few of this year’s Chanukah highlights:

The student-driven #ShareYourSpark and #ShareYourThanks campaigns. In Sy Syms School of Business’s social media marketing course, students are challenged to build a viral campaign in real time. For student Elliot Goldberg, Chanukah presented the perfect opportunity to harness the power of social media to create a positive impact. He and classmates started an initiative called #ShareYourSpark, which encourages people everywhere to share their sources of inspiration and motivation to empower others going through a difficult time to persevere.

“A few days ago, a woman named Audrey contacted us to be on the page and shared her story about how she overcame cancer,” said Goldberg. “Our post about her on Facebook became viral and her story inspired hundreds of people. We feel that this is what Chanukah is all about—every single person has the potential to inspire others and change other people’s lives.”

The campaign recently hosted an event in the lobby of Rubin Hall during which students and members of the YU community wrote about their inspiration on post-it notes and covered an entire wall with them. Earlier this semester, another student-run campaign that emerged from the marketing course, #ShareYourThanks, held events on both campuses that gave students the opportunity to express their appreciation to local police officers and firefighters for their service. For the student organizers, it’s all about paying it forward.

Chanukahfest. Last week, the student councils of Stern College for Women, Yeshiva College and the Sy Syms School of Business teamed up to present one of the most anticipated events of the year: Chanukahfest. This year’s celebration had an arcade theme and featured a wide variety of games and activities, including skeeball, air hockey, foosball, basketball games, mini golf, a video game center, a latke bar with all the fixings and a make-your-own donut station.

“This event is a really great opportunity for us to foster community on campus,” said Lizzi Peled, president of the Stern College for Women Student Council. “Chanukahfest gives people the chance to meet other students, have fun with their friends, and get to know each other in a non-stressful campus environment. We hope to help students realize that even though our campuses are far apart, we are one university.”

“Chanukahfest strengthens our sense of community and brings us together as we end the semester on a high note,” said Tzvi Levitin, president of the Yeshiva College Student Association.

In addition to Chanukahfest, students will also be able to celebrate at individual chagigot on the Wilf and Israel Henry Beren campuses this week.

A Chanukah party with local seniors at the Mount Sinai Jewish Center. For the third year, student organizations Music Vs and iGive are working together with the Jewish Community Center of Washington Heights to create a festive holiday experience for local seniors. The party will be held at the Mount Sinai Jewish Center on Tuesday, December 27, and feature student musicians, singing and dancing, and plenty of donuts.

“With more than 100 seniors present, not to mention some JCC board members, elected officials, and donors, the Chanukah party allows YU student volunteers to have a meaningful impact on a local organization which does so much for Washington Heights,” said Yonatan Mehlman of Music Vs. “The Chanukah party is a wonderful opportunity to give back to the local community, and it has been an honor and a privilege to work as part of the Music Vs. and iGive teams to help bring students to this event.”

A Chanukah gift drive for OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services. Throughout Chanukah, iGive has organized donation boxes in residence hall lobbies on the Beren Campus where students can leave toys and presents for OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services clients, whether they’re needy children or seniors with disabilities.

“Having a toy drive during this time, when the strength of our community is felt so widely, is important because it reminds us that we are also part of the larger Jewish community,” said Shayna Rabin of iGive. “We need to spread the light of our community by giving back and connecting to those in need throughout the Jewish world.”

Chanukah giveaways, prizes, decorations and programming. From the donuts given out at dorms to the giant Student Life Chanukah wheel students can spin to win fun prizes, holiday spirit is everywhere. “I think what makes Chanukah so special on campus is that we can feel the essence of Chanukah at all times during the day,” said Peled. “The main campus spaces are filled with Chanukah decorations, teachers wish us a Happy Chanukah, and the candles burn in the dorms for hours.”

Special Chanukah-themed chaburot and shiurim take place throughout the week, while a Monday night talk from student Manny Dahari, who has worked tirelessly to rescue his family and community from persecution in his native Yemen, shed light on a modern miracle.

Lighting the Chanukah candles together. For students on both campuses, being immersed in Chanukah throughout their day is uplifting—but it’s lighting their menorahs alongside their peers each night, as they sing together in the reflected candlelight, that makes the holiday at YU a truly unforgettable experience.

“The best part is when students come to light their menorahs in the dorms and take a few minutes to watch the candles,” said Peled. “It gives us a chance to sit and enjoy each other’s company and it brings the campus closer together.”

“Chanukah on campus gives students the opportunity to come together, be it through exciting student-run events like Chanukahfest or through coordinated menorah lighting in the dorms,” added Mehlman. “Only at YU is the entire campus celebrating Chanukah together.”