Courtesy of Samuel Ostrove '25

Chabad at Yale — a center that aims to provide social and recreational programming for Jewish students and faculty — held a menorah lighting to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah on Dec. 18.

Along with the ceremonial lighting, the gathering included remarks from community leaders, latkes, sufganiyot, Hanukkah tunes, a performance by the Yale Precision Marching Band and hot cocoa to keep students warm. Rabbi Meir Chaim, a co-director of Chabad at Yale, spoke to attendees before the lighting on the history of Hanukkah and its many lessons.

“Hanukkah celebrates, among other things, when the Jewish people, a couple thousand years ago, managed to reclaim their independence and freedom from the Assyrian Greek occupation,” he said. “The oil they use in the temple needs to go through a certain process in order to be produced. And that process consists of crushing the olive before its pure and its useful essence emerges. And very often it’s specifically moments of struggle, of feeling crushed and feeling under pressure where a pure, unadulterated part of ourselves has the opportunity to emerge and shine forth in a proud, bright way.”

Chaim also urged students to allow their “inner true self to emerge” during this year’s hectic finals period, which concluded on Dec. 21.

After these opening remarks, Jacob Martin ’25, president of Chabad at Yale, lit the menorah. 

“I see Hanukkah as a festival of light, but it’s really a celebration of strength,” he said. “I think through the years and through the generations, the menorah has really served as a testament to that, it’s a symbol of the strength of the Jewish people.”

Even though the ceremony was a religious gathering, Martin said he welcomed non-Jewish people “with open arms,” wanting to share his culture and values and to “show them a good time and to show you a taste of what our religion is like.”

Given a recent spike of antisemitism and hate speech on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, Martin insisted the message has and always will stay the same:

“We’re still here. This is a testament to that, and it shows that there are times of hardship, even in our community at Yale, but when we come together, we show that we are still strong, we are still united and we can still take pride in our religion. Not only in the comfort of our homes but also in public.”

Noah Keim ’26 spoke to the News about Chabad and his experiences there so far.

“I think I have had a ton of really cool opportunities to both practice my faith here, but also meet and interact with fellow Jewish students at Chabad and Hillel and other Jewish student organized events,” Keim said. “It’s been really fun and I enjoy the community that we have.”

Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and eight days.

Nati Tesfaye is a sophomore in Branford College from East Haven, Connecticut. He covers business, workers and unions in the city of New Haven. Last year, he covered housing and homelessness for the News.