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MSU allowed menorah lightings in residence halls during Hanukkah for first time

December 9, 2021
<p>MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. joins students to celebrate Hanukkah with the lighting of the Menorah at the Union on Dec. 1, 2021.</p>

MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. joins students to celebrate Hanukkah with the lighting of the Menorah at the Union on Dec. 1, 2021.

Photo by Thomas Ruth | The State News

This year, Michigan State University has taken steps to facilitate the celebration of Hanukkah among its student body and staff. Among these steps is the introduction of menorah lighting in dorms — which was currently prevented by RHS rules against candles in residential halls.

The menorah is one of Hanukkah's most recognizable symbols, with observers lighting a candle for each of the eight holiday nights. The lighting of the candles symbolizes the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lighting the Temple for eight days, following the victory of the Maccabees over Greeks approximately 2,200 years ago. 

However, MSU’s ban on candles in residence halls has forced many students in the past to covertly light their menorahs. This year, the university set up special areas in a number of residence halls to allow Jewish residents to celebrate the holiday much easier. 

From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., students gathered to light menorahs in these special ceremonies. The events were jointly hosted by the Chabad at MSU and Residential and Hospitality Services, or RHS.

Exploratory preference freshman Max Pollack said his friends and he were happy to see the events take place.

“It was really cool to see, a lot of pictures that came out of it were cool,” Pollack said. “Every opportunity during Hanukkah that I was able to celebrate, like whether it was in the dorms or just around campus like I did, was pretty cool.”

Business freshman and Chabad at MSU member Shoshi Ploetz said she was relieved to be able to celebrate Hanukkah to its fullest extent at MSU. She’s originally from Ohio, and said the events made it easier to be away from family during the holiday.

“It was really important to me to find some sort of outlet that I can use for my Judaism, and being able to celebrate the holidays, even without my family,” Ploetz said.

As a member of the Chabad, Ploetz helped organize the lightings. She said the impact of allowing Jewish students to celebrate in such an environment was felt every night.

“I had a bunch of Jewish students come up to me and say how much they appreciate that we’re doing this and how much it means to them,” Ploetz said. “It is a very special, the thing that we were doing, because it was the first time that Michigan State has ever done that.”

Ploetz was also surprised at the amount of non-Jewish students who took an interest in the dorm ceremonies. 

“That was something that really surprised me,” Ploetz said. “And I really enjoyed being able to teach them about the story of Hanukkah, and why it's so important to us.”

In addition to the residence hall ceremonies, MSU hosted a menorah lighting outside of the Union on Dec. 1, which drew dozens of students despite the cold weather.

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