The triumph of good over evil through faith was celebrated Thursday night on the Lory Student Center Plaza as a crowd of 100 onlookers watched CSU President Tony Frank light a 6-foot-tall menorah in celebration of the Jewish holiday Chanukah.
â€œCSU is a pluralistic society that respects everyoneâ€™s traditions,â€ Frank said in the moments leading up to the lighting. â€œUnless we celebrate these differences, they can just as easily separate and divide as they can be a source of strength.â€
Organized by the Chabad Jewish Student Alliance at CSU, the menorah lighting was the second to happen on campus since the group came to the university five years ago. The organization chose Chanukah (pronounced Hanukkah) to celebrate publicly, largely because of its universal messages, said Rabbi Yerachmiel
Gorelik, Chabadâ€™s faculty advisor.
Thursday was the second day of the eight-day festival.
â€œThe idea is that with a small measure of faith, you can overcome tremendous adversity. Sometimes weâ€™ll go though hard times. And weâ€™ll think itâ€™s overwhelming and insurmountable. But we know with faith and determination, we can overcome the greatest odds,â€ Gorelik said, explaining the holidayâ€™s origins.
The festivities acknowledge the Maccabeesâ€™ successful 2nd Century BCE rebellion against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, ruler of a kingdom that expanded across todayâ€™s Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. The minority army used oil, typically only good for one evening, to light a temple for eight nights.
Jewish and non-Jewish students attended the event â€“â€“ some looking to rekindle traditions lost in the distance between CSU and hometowns and others eager to see what diversity on campus is like.
â€œMy family doesnâ€™t celebrate Jewish holidays,â€ said Michaela Muniz, a Jewish Chabad member and sophomore human development and family sciences major. â€œSo Iâ€™m really lucky to have Chabad to celebrate them.â€
Adam Avery, president of Chabad and senior health and exercise sciences major, told the assemblage of students, professors and moms with baby strollers that he acknowledges this time is difficult for those who â€œmight be custom to spending this holiday with your family. But tonight, hopefully we could be your family. We try hard to be a home away from home for those who need some Jewish lovinâ€™.â€
Matt Weiderspon, a non-Jewish freshman, attended Chabadâ€™s menorah lighting after encouragement from CSUâ€™s Honors Program.
â€œI really liked the message of how a little faith overcomes so much adversity,â€ he said, holding a lit candle given to him and those in attendance to symbolize small lightâ€™s ability to illuminate darkness.
Despite Chabadâ€™s best efforts to educate the Fort Collins City Council on
Chanukahâ€™s universal meanings, the body mandated in 2005 that menorahs not be displayed on city grounds despite allowing Christmas trees the same right.
CooperSmithâ€™s Pub & Brewing in Old Town has played host to Chabadâ€™s off-campus Fort Collins menorah lightings after the councilâ€™s order, which has since been attended by â€œsenators, attorney-generals and mayors,â€ Gorelik said.
The group saw little to no difficulty performing the two public menorah lightings at CSU, both of which have been attended by university Provost and Executive Vice President Rick Miranda, or more recently by President Frank.
â€œ(The school) has been really supportive,â€ Avery said. â€œTheyâ€™ve been really interested in creating a campus where everybody can express their views and show who they are.â€
Staff writer Andrew Carrera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.