Montclair Hillel, the student organization for Jewish life at Montclair State University, held their final event of the semester “Chanukah Shabbat” on Dec. 3 to celebrate both the sixth night of Chanukah and Shabbat.
The president of Montclair Hillel, Ella Oren-Dahan, a junior visual arts and mathematics major, discussed what students were celebrating that evening.
“Today is both the sixth night of Chanukah and Shabbat, and so when Chanukah and Shabbat overlap, we start with the Chanukah prayers which means we light the menorah and have blessings, and then we move on to lighting the candles for Shabbat,” Oren-Dahan said.
The night started with games of dreidel and a story from Rachel Serviss, a junior English major and vice president of Montclair Hillel. She talked about Rabbi Shammai and Rabbi Hillel’s disagreement over how to light the menorah during Chanukkah. Rachel explained the differences between the two.
“Rabbi Shammai believed we should start with all eight nights on the menorah and light them that way,” Serviss said. “However, Rabbi Hillel believed the miracle was so great that as the miracle went on, it brought more light, so he believed we should light one on each night starting with the most recent.”
Serviss took a vote on whether to light the menorah in Rabbi Shammai or Rabbi Hillel’s way. Rabbi Hillel’s way won.
The group then gathered around to light the menorah and sing their prayers and blessings. This was followed by lighting the Shabbat candles. After the Shabbat candles were lit, everyone said the Kiddush and Motzi prayers.
After this, everyone got to eat. There was a spread of food that included donuts, a huge pretzel menorah and of course, lots of Kosher options.
Emily Kohlenstein, a senior music therapy major, shared her favorite childhood tradition.
“One thing I remember from when I was younger was my entire dad’s side of the family gathering and going over my aunt’s house,” Kohlenstein said. “We would light the candles and we would have a big dinner. My aunt also has an indoor pool at her house, so a bunch of my cousins would all go over [there] in the middle [of] winter with our bathing suits and swim in it. We would do that after we lit the candles and then come back in and exchange gifts.”
Kohlenstein added that her favorite Chanukah food is potato latkes.
Evan Gruber, a freshman accounting major, said one of his favorite things about Chanukah is the surprises that come with it.
“My favorite part about Chanukah is spinning a dreidel and [the fact that] every night is a new surprise; every day is a new present,” Gruber said. “Every day, I was excited growing up anticipating this holiday. It’s just a great holiday.”
Montclair Hillel is a group of people who have created a space to celebrate their faith. Rebekah Adelson, the group’s student advisor from Hillel of Greater MetroWest, New Jersey, shared what she wants the campus community to know about the organization.
“Montclair Hillel is a place we want all students to feel comfortable coming to celebrate Jewish life and diversity on campus,” Adelson said. “While we’re an organization that focuses on Jewish community and culture, we are welcoming of students of all backgrounds and faiths.”