Students celebrate Hanukkah away from home


Tuesday night, marketing freshman Max Lippitt pulled up a chair to a newspaper-covered table at the MSU Hillel Jewish Student Center and began painting a menorah.

Hillel hosted the menorah-building event to make it easier for students to practice Hanukkah traditions, which begins at sundown this Saturday, in their dorm rooms and apartments while they’re at school, instead of relaxing with their families at home.

Lippitt has to change his typical Hanukkah routine to celebrate the holiday at school, which involves constructing his own menorah so he can follow Hanukkah traditions in his dorm room.

Julia Nagy / The State News
Julia Nagy / The State News

“Luckily, I’m involved at the Hillel,” Lippitt said. “I’ll probably actually light candles with my roommate for fun, and when I get home, I’ll celebrate with my (family).”

Finals week always brings stress for MSU students, but for Jewish students this semester, the timing of Hanukkah adds disappointment to the mix for some.

“A really important part of the holiday is displaying the menorah,” Program Associate for the MSU Hillel Samuel Appel said. “Growing up, most parents have nice silver ones — and when you get to college, you don’t have one anymore. (This event) helps students practice the tradition at the university and (in) East Lansing.”

Last year, Hanukkah began on Dec. 20, well after finals ended. This allowed students to go home and spend time with family and friends during the eight-daylong celebration — a key aspect this year’s holiday will be missing.

But for supply chain management freshman Rose Rubin, celebrating Hanukkah at MSU presents opportunities to experience the holiday with new groups of people.

“I’m a little sad without my family,” Rubin said. “But I’m excited to see how I can celebrate with friends instead of family.”

Human biology sophomore Andy Sonenberg said the fact that Hanukkah isn’t a major Jewish holy day makes it somewhat easier for him to be away from his family.

“It depends on how religious you are,” Sonenberg said. “(Hanukkah) doesn’t have great meaning as far as what you do — (on other holidays) you fast, you atone for your sins. This is a festival of lights — it’s a celebration.”

For some, Hanukkah does not rank as high in importance as observances such as Passover, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which African American and African studies junior Mikole Levran said she would never celebrate without her family, even if she had exams.

Levran said while Hanukkah is a fun holiday in the Jewish faith, celebrating at school isn’t too much of a disappointment.

“I don’t typically go home for Hanukkah since I can celebrate where I live on campus,” Levran said. “I just like to be with my family … but as long as I can celebrate Hanukkah on my own, I’m OK.”

Appel is celebrating his fifth Hanukkah away from home since first coming to MSU.

“I’ll probably get some friends together to light the candles,” Appel said. “We’re forming a community in East Lansing that’s separate from parents and family.”

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