The giant lighted Menorah, touted as the largest in Northern Colorado, and traditional Hanukkah music lured curious students to a table in the Lory Student Center on Wednesday where they could find out more about the Festival of Lights.
Representatives from Hillel and the Chabad Jewish Student Alliance played dreidel, a Jewish game played with a top-like toy and coins, handed out jelly donuts and chocolate "gelt" (money) and offered information about the holiday.
"It is so important in these days to have the choice and freedom to celebrate all traditions and religions," said Hedy Berman, director of Hillel. "That's why Hillel and Chabad strive to provide all the opportunities and resources for everything Jewish on campus, and we invite all Jewish students and anyone who is interested to come and explore this beautiful heritage."
Hanukkah is the eight-day "Festival of Lights" that has commemorated freedom for Jews for almost 3,000 years.
Light is symbolic to the tradition, Berman said.
"It's about bringing light into the darkness-in one of the darkest moments in Jewish history and the darkest month of the year," she said.
The story goes as follows:
In the days when the Greeks ruled the Jewish, the Jewish temple was destroyed and they were forbidden from their religious customs.
Mass execution followed. The Jews formed a rebel army and fought back. Warfare waged for more than a year before the Jewish army was able to restore the temple's operations. Afterward, the army lit a makeshift menorah with a one-day supply of olive oil.
The oil burned for eight days before fresh fuel arrived. Rabbis then designated those eight days as an annual holiday celebrating the dedication of the temple and the miracle of the menorah.
Today, Jews commemorate this holiday by gathering with family, giving gifts, lighting the menorah, eating and playing games.
"It's a guilt-free, no-strings-attached celebration of culture," said Amanda Stone, senior psychology major and volunteer for Hillel. "It's when I feel the closest to my family."
Michael Foxman, president of the Chabad Jewish Student Alliance, said the holiday holds symbolic meaning for him.
"It's not a belief, it's a practice," said Foxman, freshman construction management major. "It symbolizes the oppression Jews are still experiencing in the Middle East."
Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik said Hanukkah conveys the meaning of freedom.
"It has a universal message," said Gorelik, executive of Chabad Jewish Center of Northern Colorado and spiritual adviser for the Chabad Jewish Student Alliance. "If you believe that everyone deserves to live as a free person, then you can appreciate the message of Hanukkah."
As part of the Hanukkah outreach campaign, Chabad Jewish Center of Northern Colorado joins thousands of Chabad Centers across the globe that stage similar public displays of the Menorah and its symbolic lights.
For the first time in Northern Colorado, a public menorah lighting ceremony is scheduled. Mayor Doug Hutchinson is set to participate along with other local dignitaries.
The event is slated to take place at 6 p.m. on Dec. 28 in Old Town Square. The event will is free and holiday food will be served, with music and entertainment.