On the first day of Hanukkah every year, Ben Tessler and his family would place menorahs in their windows where everyone could see.
At sundown, his family would read a blessing in Hebrew and light the first candle on the right of the menorah. After the lighting, Tessler and his family would sing a song telling the story of Hanukkah and receive one present apiece.
This ritual would go on for the next eight nights, until all nine candles shined brightly through the glass.
“It was very traditional during those years (at home),” said Tessler, a junior psychology major and Modern Orthodox Jew. “My family’s very traditional.”
Now that he shares an apartment with his girlfriend, Tessler said he tries to reenact the ceremony at school when he can’t go home.
Many of the roughly 700 Jewish students on campus find it difficult to celebrate Hanukkah away from home because the holiday falls on different dates each year. Since Hanukkah corresponds with the Jewish calendar, which follows the lunar cycle, it can start between late November and mid-December.
When the holiday falls on finals week, some like Tessler try to bring the Hanukkah traditions to CSU’s Jewish population.
“I have a menorah up here, and I try to keep the ceremony as close as I can to home,” Tessler said.
In the stress of finals week, though, some of the Jewish students decide not to celebrate the holiday at all.
“Sometimes I kind of forget about it,” said Patrick Mayworm, a junior criminal justice major. “It’s definitely hard to follow along when you’re away from the traditions of your family.”
Mayworm, a reformed Jew, used to take turns with his sister inviting friends over to watch them light the menorah. They placed an electronic menorah in their window and “holiday lights” around their yard to celebrate the season, he said, though they kept their own menorahs inside.
While students such as Mayworm won’t celebrate at all with their families this year, many will still take time to reflect on their own Hanukkah traditions and memories.
“A lot of families have a lot of traditions … but (Hanukkah) always means being around family,” said Josh Hamet, CSU director of the Hillel center for Jewish campus life. “I think it gives students a chance to take a few minutes to say a prayer and take time out to remember traditions.”
The Hillel house held a Hanukkah celebration last Wednesday where they served latkes, spun the dreidel and held a gift exchange. However, they chose not to celebrate during finals week so students could focus on studying. Still, the house will provide menorahs, candles and dreidels for whoever needs them.
This year, Mayworm asked his mom to send him a menorah for his room for the first time since he left for college. Although he said that he doesn’t recite the Hebrew prayers or celebrate as much as he did at home, he still takes time to light a candle and say a prayer to himself.
“It makes my mom happy,” said Mayworm with a laugh.
Staff writer David Martinez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.