Giant menorah lit to celebrate last night of Hanukkah

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Chabad’s Rabbi Zev Johnson places the first of eight lit candles on a large-scaled menorah at the West Mall on UT’s campus.

The Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center commemorated the last night of Hanukkah on Wednesday as members lit the last candle on a nine-foot menorah on the West Mall.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish holiday celebrating the rededication of the Holy Temple and victory over oppressive Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C. The holiday is celebrated over eight nights.

Cari Cohen, Chabad’s executive board events chair, lit the Shamash, which is the leading candle in the center of the eight candles in the Menorah. After the candle-lighting, the center hosted a party, though Cohen said focusing celebrations on the last night of the holiday is not typical.

“Since Thanksgiving and Hanukkah ran together this year, we’re celebrating tonight,” Cohen said. “We’re going to be eating traditional Hanukkah food, like latkes and jelly donuts, and playing dreidel.”

Chabad’s Rabbi Zev Johnson said for him, Hanukkah is about positivity and the unification of Jews from all around the world.

“We are different types of people from all over the world, different backgrounds coming together in diversity, into one setting, we all have different personalities and different ways of expressing ourselves and our Judaism,” Johnson said. “But we come together and illuminate the darkness.”

Johnson also said he knows finals week creates stress for students, and said the message of Hanukkah — light prevailing over darkness — helps students de-stress and relax.

“Thanksgiving was amazing, but it was just one day. We come back to UT and there are finals and other darkness we have to deal with,” Johnson said. “Hanukkah expresses light and hope.”

Johnson also said Hanukkah celebrations emphasize the importance of relying on one another to make a brighter world.

“We look for balance in our lives, we can move forward with strength, hand in hand together to illuminate this world through good things for ourselves and the environment around us,” he said.

Government junior Madison Lustig said she agreed with Johnson and said she was looking forward to relaxing with friends at the Hanukkah party.

“It’s a relaxing time to celebrate the last night of Hanukkah, it’s beautiful to even be able to light the candles on campus,” Lustig said. “Since Hanukkah and Thanksgiving were both celebrated together, [I] didn’t get that much of an opportunity to celebrate Hanukkah — it was so rushed. So that’s what this party is really about for me.”