Nine fully lit candles stood 10 feet tall in front of the Oviatt Library. The candles hold special meaning to the Jewish community in Northridge as it is the last night of Chanukah. More than 50 students, faculty, staff and community members sang as they watched the Rabbi light the menorah.
The Chabad Jewish Student Center, CSUN Hillel, Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and Gamma Alpha Theta sorority, co-sponsored the event. The funds helped provide the sufganiyot (jelly filled donuts) and latkes (potato pancakes) that were served on the two tables adjacent to the silver menorah. The fried food is part of the Chanukah tradition as they commemorate the miraculous oil that held the menorah lit for eight days.
Chanukah is an eight-day festival of lights that begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev. Sandra Braum, student president of the Chabad Jewish Student Center, said that the Chabad has taken a permanent place in her heart and hopes that the spirit of Hanukkah spreads across campus.
“Not a lot of people know about our organization,” said Braum. “The Chabad is all about our outreach and a Jewish home away from home.”
In the days leading up to the big celebration, the Rabbi Chaim Brook of the Chabad Jewish Student Center stood next to the giant menorah, meeting and informing CSUN students about the upcoming events. This is the ninth year the Jewish student organizations invited the public to join the members in front of the Oviatt Library as they light up the night and celebrate the Jewish festival of lights.
“The fact that we can stand in the middle of the university and celebrate Chanukah, is the epitome of freedom of religion that we have in our country,” said Rabbi Brook. “It’s so important that every student from every religion feels comfortable knowing that they are in a safe spot and encourage to practice the way their heart desires.”
All of the guests were given individual-sized candles that represented the shamash, or the attendant candle, that is used to light all the other candles, moving its flame from left to right. Non-Jewish CSUN students stopped out of curiosity and participated in the celebration.
Kayla Prike, an 18-year-old art major, was on her way to the library when she noticed the silver menorah and a large group surrounding it. She says she has never taken part in the Jewish holiday, but hopes she can continue to come every year from now one.
“I thought it was a great experience and it was a beautiful ceremony,” said Priske. “I really like how we each got a candle. We all connected by lighting from each other’s flames. It showed community bonding.”
As the night hours crawled in, the nine candles were the only light source for the group that remained after the lighting ceremony. In the previous years, Chanukah took place after school finals, but this year it came a bit early, the first night falling on Thanksgiving.
CSUN Hillel director, Judy Alban, who has helped plan the celebration for the past five years, said she is happy to see a lot more student participation including the non-Jewish students who came out to support.
“I think it’s important for the Jewish students on campus to feel supported and know they can come out to celebrate together,” said Alban. “It’s really nice that the campus let us do this. We hope we can continue to do this in the next years.”
Chanukah is traditionally celebrated in a public fashion and is commonly referred to as “illuminating the darkness.” Each candle is lit to add more light to the night and spread the spirit of the celebration.
“The message of Chanukah is always increasing. We are never satisfied with the amount of light we are spreading,” said Rabbi Brooke. “ That’s a very strong message for each student to never be satisfied with their accomplishment. Always add more and more.”