Jewish student group celebrates Hanukkah

Tomy Hillers

Members of the Jewish student group Hillel are hoping to share some of their traditions at Hanukkah with ISU students.

Samantha Kitover, president of Hillel, said the group has been involved in past campus celebrations.

“Hillel, is involved and invited through the university to take part in that event,” she said. “Last year Adam Oris, our former president, donated time to children by reading them books during the Festival of Lights on campus.”

While no plans have been made yet, Kitover, sophomore in pre-business, said group members want to increase their visibility at Iowa State.

“There really isn’t very much recognition for us on campus,” she said. “People don’t know a lot about the culture or even think that it’s around.”

Ellen Arkovich, youth group director for the Ames Jewish Community, said Hanukkah is a celebration of religious freedom dating back to 165 B.C.

“It began nearly 2,000 years ago when the Assyrian Army seized control of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem,” she said. “When the temple was re-captured and resurrected the people observed a holiday.”

Arkovich said the holiday was held in place of a harvest holiday missed during the war.

“Many of the traditions begun years ago still remain traditions today,” she said. “One of the definite practices is the lighting of the Menorah. One candle is lit, each day, for a period of eight days.”

Arkovich said the Menorah is like a candelabra that holds nine candles. She said eight of the candles are lit over a period of eight days by the ninth candle, called the Shamash.

“As Hanukkah was introduced to the U.S., it picked up some new traditions,” she said. “Many families exchange gifts and play the dreidel game.”

The dreidel game involves spinning a four-sided top to gamble for money or prizes.

Sally Lapan, religious school director for the Ames Jewish Community, said the holiday is actually very insignificant in comparison to the High Holidays and the Passover.

“Hanukkah does not have heavy emphasis in Jerusalem and France,” she said. “It is a holiday that is given light in proximity to Christmas.”

Lapan said Hanukkah is a celebration was “candy-coated” with myths to prevent past rulers from being threatened by its focus on religious freedom.

“Now we celebrate the traditions and beliefs, and observe some traditions of our own,” she said. “Here in Ames there is an annual Hanukkah party that is open to the community through reservation only. Family observances are the only other observations other than the party and a formal service.”

Arkovich said Hanukkah is celebrated from Dec. 21 to Dec. 28. She said the Ames Jewish Congregation will be holding a service in the Ames Jewish Community building on Dec. 22.