Fireworks set for Hanukkah

The Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale is planning an explosive celebration of Hanukkah starting tonight.

The center will launch fireworks from the roof of its building on Wall Street for eight consecutive nights as part of a light-themed Hanukkah celebration this month. Organizers will launch a single firework Wednesday and add another each night until next Wednesday night, when all eight fireworks will launch — just as celebrants light more candles each night during Hanukkah.

Colin Weil ’88, director of development at the center, said that while Hanukkah holds many meanings for different people, the Slifka Center is focusing on the “light” portion of Hanukkah — also known as the Festival of Lights — this year.

In contrast to the spectacle of the fireworks, Slifka organizers have placed the HanuKave — a black tent made of star-printed curtains — on the second floor of their building. The 15-by-15-foot tent is meant to provide a space for contemplation during Hanukkah, Weil said, and gives the impression of sitting in a planetarium.

“We think it is exciting to explore that [the meaning of light] in the context of Hannukah,” Weil said.

Weil said Yale has always recognized the meaning of light, pointing to the appearance of the Hebrew phrase “urim v-tumim” — which refers to tools used by ancient prophets — in Yale’s crest.

The fireworks and the tent are new additions to Slifka this year. Weil said the center’s board has not decided if they will be a part of next year’s Hanukkah celebrations, although he said it is very likely that there will be something similar. Organizers will also seek ideas for next year’s events from students, Weil said.

“[These are] two new experiments that may become tradition depending on how people react,” said Rabbi James Ponet ’68.

All four students interviewed said they appreciate the Slifka Center’s efforts to bring more attention to Hanukkah.

Andrew Kahn ’14 said that Hanukkah is typically a quiet holiday spent with family. Still, Kahn said he is interested to see how Slifka uses the fireworks to make the celebration public.

“Candle lighting is a very intimate ritual,” Kahn said. “Judaism doesn’t have a whole lot of rituals like [the fireworks].”

Hody Nemes ’13 said he supports the fireworks, but “does not know what to make” of the new tent in the center, adding that it may be a good place for students to relax during reading week.

In the past, students celebrated at a candle-lighting ceremony in Beinecke Plaza, and several students also lit candles in their suites. Events to celebrate Hanukkah this year include a candle-lighting ceremony in Dwight Hall, a Hanukkah ball next Monday, a party at the center for graduate and professional students next Wednesday and nightly study breaks at the Slifka Center for the duration of the holiday.

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