The story of Chanukah tells us of unspeakable heroism, where, against all odds, the unity of a very small group of Jewish people enabled them to overcome their blood thirsty enemies.
The word Chanukah in Hebrew means “to dedicate.” This is fitting, as the holiday refers to the time where the Maccabean Jews reclaimed control over Jerusalem and the Temple. It marks a time of great courage and strength, its story serving as a powerful expression of remembrance to everyone today, reminding us that strength in numbers should not be a threat to our strength in unity.
While Jews are a small minority – at least outside Israel – our strength is ignited through our unity as a people. Publicly displaying a proud Jewish identity, confidently and logically advocating for Israel, and staying true to ourselves, appropriately representing our people – this is how we continue to achieve greatness, how we continue to survive and exist as a nation.
Chanukah today is a definite crowd pleaser. Celebrated with eight nights of gifts, chocolate gelt, latkes, sufganiyot, dreidels and more, there isn’t much not to be excited about. It is a time of family, friends, celebration and indulging in delicious foods.
The story of Chanukah, while it may have been popularized in more contemporary times, is still very much relevant to today. It offers a very important lesson to the Jewish people, one of perseverance, bravery and faith. As representatives of Jewish people on campus, we can learn important lessons of courage and bravery from the Maccabean Jews. They did not give up even when it seemed as though all the odds were against them, and they stayed true to themselves through it all. The story reminds us to be proud, stay strong, and to be advocates.
It can be hard, sometimes, to be a student living in a city different than your family, particularly during the holidays. Fortunately for us, there are organizations and warm faces in Ottawa working hard to plan events for us, and to ensure that each of us always has a place to go for the holidays.
On the first night of Chanukah, the Chabad Student Network (CSN) has arranged to have a huge community-wide menorah lighting ceremony outside Ottawa City Hall with Mayor Jim Watson. And just last week, Hillel Ottawa hosted its annual Chanukah Ball, a fun formal evening giving all students the chance to connect and have a great time together before the holidays.
In the spirit of Chanukah, both Hillel Ottawa and CSN will offer evenings where students get to create and paint their own menorahs. There will also be various lunch and learns, and bagels and shmear (which will most definitely include latkes). CSN will also host a bowling event and other alumni events throughout Chanukah. As well, there will be menorah-lighting events held nightly by both CSN and Hillel Ottawa.
Ottawa’s Jewish student community really is a second family and your home away from home for Jewish students on campus, and there will be something for everyone during Chanukah. I encourage you all to take advantage of what this community has to offer and bring more meaning to your Chanukah this year.