Students gathered last night at Penn Hillel to celebrate the third night of Hanukkah together. Though candle-lighting ceremonies are taking place in each of the college houses every night, there was a special sense of community and excitement in the Hillel lobby. Student chatted, posed for pictures, and munched on doughnuts while waiting for the lighting to begin. Nursing sophomore Rachel Bernard commented, “It’s really fun celebrating Hanukkah at Penn. You can feel the sense of community.”
Several other students echoed the same sentiments. Emily Hart, a junior in the college, said, “I miss my family a lot, so it’s really nice to be a part of this big community. You never feel alone.” It is especially meaningful for students to come together during this demanding part of the semester. As finals rage on, the holiday allows students to spend time with friends while expressing their faith. “It is a combination of relaxing and exciting celebrating the holiday at Penn,” college junior Brian Mund explained, “It’s definitely stressful during exam season. However, being here really adds to the communal holiday spirit.”
Student a cappella group Shabbatones added their voices to the celebration in a short yet beautiful performance. The group, well-known for its creative arrangements and renditions of American, Israeli and Jewish music, did not disappoint.
Later, President Amy Gutmann warmly addressed the students before lighting the menorah candle. “I’m so proud to be the president of a university with such a vibrant Hillel,” she said, “And so happy that your home away from home is so close to mine, both physically and spiritually.” She didn’t leave before jokingly asking the age-old latke question: apple sauce, sour cream, or both?
Hearing the students’ voices rise together to recite the blessings as the candle was lit was an awe-inspiring moment. The celebration serves as a sign that Penn’s Hillel is as vibrant, proud, and unified as ever, and another indicator of the unique and beautiful community of faith here at Penn.
See more photos from the event on Penn’s Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/universityofpennsylvania/sets/72157632224936476/