Chanukah menorah lighting ceremony celebrates Jewish festival of lights

Erik Petrovich

Video by Erik Petrovich.

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At 5 p.m. Monday, the second night of Chanukah, about a hundred people gathered outside the Lory Student Center to celebrate the lighting of the menorah and enjoy Jewish traditions.

The ceremony was orchestrated by the Chabad Jewish Student Organization at CSU and featured many prominent guest speakers, including CSUPD Police Chief Scott Harris and CSU President Tony Frank. Andrew Schneeweis, Sara Sladek and Carly DeRosa represented CSU’s Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi as well as CSU’s first-ever Jewish sorority Achayut, a hebrew word meaning sister, which they said will begin in the spring.

Frank was given the honor of lighting the shamash, the center candle used to light the others, while Sladek, Derosa, and Schneeweis were given the honor of lighting two candles for the second night of the Jewish festival of lights.

Chabad President Marie Handl opened up the evening by welcoming the crowd of more than a hundred to the lighting ceremony. 

Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, director of the Rohr Chabad Jewish Center of Northern Colorado and the only orthodox rabbi in Fort Collins, led the ceremonial prayers and sang some favorite Chanukah songs, including The Dreidel Song and S’veevon. Rabbi Gorelik said the menorah lighting ceremony is especially important in the modern day as a way to get through troubling times.

“No matter what difficulty one faces, a small amount of light can repel all darkness,” Gorelik said. “It is a reminder for us to do that one act of kindness, the power of a small act can be huge.”

Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, who lectures on traditional Jewish philosophy at CSU, leads the menorah lighting ceremony on Dec. 7, 2015. Gorelik is also the director of the Rohr Chabad Jewish Centre at CSU and is deeply involved with Jewish life on campus. (Photo Credit: Cam Bumstead)
Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, who lectures on traditional Jewish philosophy at CSU, leads the menorah lighting ceremony Tuesday. Gorelik is also the director of the Rohr Chabad Jewish Centre at CSU and is deeply involved with Jewish life on campus. (Photo Credit: Cam Bumstead.)

The celebration was the seventh that CSU President Tony Frank attended, who Gorelik said has always been very welcoming to the Jewish community.

“The symbolism I would like to add to the rabbi’s is the importance of religious freedom— nowadays, we might call that religious tolerance,” Frank said. “We should never lose track of the fact that light will always defeat darkness.”

Chanukah commemorates the revolt of the Jewish people against their Syrian oppressors, who outlawed the practice of Judaism in 200 B.C.E. in what is now Israel. According to the Talmud, a central text in the Jewish faith, Judah Maccabee led the revolt, which in two years drove out the Syrians.

During the re-dedication of the second Jewish temple, the Maccabees only had enough blessed oil to keep the menorah lit for one night. In what Jewish people believe was a miracle, the oil ended up lasting for eight days, bringing light to the chambers of the temple.

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Around the world, Jewish families and followers light their menorah candle by candle, “one for each night they shed a sweet light” to remind them of days long ago, as the popular “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah” song says.

The holiday is celebrated on the 25th day of Kislev, a month in the lunar-based Hebrew calendar that usually overlaps November and December. In some years, Chanukah has begun as early as Thanksgiving, popularly called “thanksgivakah” by American Jews.

Schneeweis, president of Alpha Epsilon Phi, said he was thankful that so many people came out, but was quick to say that the entire event couldn’t have happened without Rabbi Gorelik.

“For me, Chanukah is a really good time to be thankful for your family and to be around friends,” Shneeweis said. “I’m happy for how far the Jewish community has come in Fort Collins.”

Collegian City Beat Reporter Erik Petrovich can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @EAPetrovich.