People gathered across the Plaza Thursday evening to witness the lighting of a 9-foot-tall menorah in honor of Hanukkah.
Lighting the torch that would ignite eight flames on the Jewish candelabrum, Linda Kuk, vice president of student affairs, stood in front of the crowd.
Rachel Raizen, vice president of the Jewish student organization Hillel, climbed a stool with the torch and reached to light eight candles atop the nine-branched menorah, representing the days of Chanukah. Then she joined other members of Hillel for a sing-along.
Voices rose from the Plaza where over 100 people clustered, despite the cold, led by the Hillel members as well as Josh Dember, a violinist accompanying them.
“To light the menorah in the darkest month of the year represents the Jewish peoples’ strength,” Raizen said after the lighting ceremony, drawing her knees to her chest to stay warm while she sat on a Plaza bench.
“The Jewish peoples’ strength to endure hardships in times of struggle,” added Aaron Matzkin, a freshman member of Hillel.
Although this menorah travels to campuses and Jewish community centers across the country, Thursday marked the first time it has illuminated CSU.
Yisroel Rosencranz, a Rabbi from Boulder, brought the towering menorah to campus. He said the branches of the menorah represent the Jewish belief in a series of miracles that occurred around 165 B.C., when a one-day supply of oil is said to have lasted eight days.
“Every day was a miracle,” Rosencranz said. He explained that Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem after a small group of Jewish soldiers overtook the larger Syrian army, which had been restricting the practice of Judaism.
Before the lighting, Hedy Berman, the director of Hillel, approached the microphone on the small stage that the menorah was erected upon, and gave a metaphorical meaning of the Hanukkah, which is also known as “the festival of lights.”
“As long as (Hanukkah) is remembered,” Berman said, “Jews will not surrender to the darkness.”
Berman asked Kuk to light the torch to the menorah because Berman said Kuk has always been supportive of Hillel and other campus groups.
“I was really honored,” Kuk said. “It’s also an honor for the campus to have the menorah here. We should do more things like this.”
Members of the crowd sang along and looked up at the flames of the candelabrum.
“I came because I’m trying to get back in touch with my Jewish roots,” said April Torhan, a senior environmental health major. “I didn’t think there would be this many people here. I’m impressed.”
Another student, Mariaan Esterhuizen came for a different reason.
“I’m a Christian,” Esterhuizen, a sophomore wildlife biology major, began, “and the Jews are where we start our faith. So I came to see them light the menorah.”
The crowd included not only CSU students but also children and older people.
Hanukkah began Nov. 29 and lasts until Sunday. The menorah lighting provided one of several events Hillel organized to mark the holiday.