Hanukkah with Hillel


Carita Gardiner

Students exchanged Mysterious Moses gifts during Shabbat.

Snow, lights, and holiday festivities highlight aspects of the joy often associated with the winter season. Among these winter holidays, Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday beginning on the eve of Kislev 25 of the Hebrew calendar, falls around late November to early December.
This year, Hanukkah began on November 28 and ended on December 6. Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. The well-known story of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil in the menorah influences many traditions observed during the Hanukkah holidays.

Hillel, a club dedicated to discussing and celebrating Jewish faith and culture on campus, planned a variety of Hanukkah events for the school community. These events included a nightly Menorah lighting, a Hanukkah dinner, a Dreidel-playing event, as well as a secret gift exchange called Mysterious Moses. These events took place throughout the course of the eight days of Hanukkah and welcomed all students of any faith to attend.

An important feature of the Hanukkah holiday is the lighting of the Menorah, as it symbolizes and celebrates the miracle of light. To recognize this, Hillel organized nightly candle lightings outside of the head of school’s office. On each of the eight nights, Mr. Nathan Seidenberg, instructor in history and faculty advisor to Hillel, alongside club heads Sydney Goldstein ’22 and James Bushell ’22, lit the Hanukkah Menorah, known also as the Hanukkiah, in celebration of Hanukkah. Mr. Seidenberg said, “I always look forward to lighting the Hanukkiah and celebrating with the [Hotchkiss] community that way, even though Hanukkah is a minor holiday.”

In celebration of Hanukkah, Hillel and the dining hall also arranged for a special Hanukkah dinner in the Dining Hall on November 30. The dinner menu consisted of traditional Jewish food including latkes, brisket, applesauce, matzo ball soup, and jelly doughnuts. The Dining Hall played Jewish music and included dreidels and chocolate gelt on each table.

On December 1, Hillel hosted a dreidel-playing event in the rotunda.. The dreidel game, a famous Hanukkah tradition, is a game of chance where the players take turns spinning the dreidel. Students gathered to learn and play the game, which in this case, used chocolate coins known as gelt for tokens. Ms. Carita Gardiner, instructor in English, said, “I hope the Dreidel Party [was] a fun way for students to celebrate. We planned these activities to help people who aren’t already aware of Hanukkah get to experience the traditions for the first time and help people who know the holiday to have an away-from-home celebration.”
Finally, the Hillel board organized Mysterious Moses, a secret gift giving event which took place during Hillel’s weekly Shabbat dinner on December 3. Students and faculty exchanged gifts without disclosing the giver’s identity. James Bushell ’22, co-head of Hillel, said, “I really [enjoyed] the suspense and surprise of the event. It [was] exciting to give as well as receive a gift.”

For many Jewish people, the Hanukkah holidays serve as an opportunity to celebrate and spend time with family and friends. On campus, the events Hillel planned provided an opportunity for Jewish students and faculty to share and celebrate their traditions with the rest of the community. Jared Hurst ’24, Hillel board member, said, “The gift of being together is the most important aspect of Hanukkah for me. Although I miss the daily candle lighting with my family, this is my first Hanukkah at Hotchkiss, and I [enjoyed] celebrating with the community.”