UB students celebrate Hanukkah despite stress of looming finals


For Rachel Gersten, celebrating Jewish holidays can be difficult.

Instead of exchanging gifts and taking part in her family’s Hanukkah party, Gertsen will be cramming for finals.

“Usually the holidays are tough for me to be away since my grandparents host them – they’re getting older and they’re not going to be around forever,” Gersten, a sophomore sociology major, said.

While many students remain packed in the library preparing for their final exams this week, Jewish students are still finding time to celebrate Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights – with campus organizations like Hillel of Buffalo and Chabad House of Buffalo putting on celebrations.

Though the eight-day holiday officially began on Sunday, the Chabad House had a unity Shabbat, with a dinner and a service that combined members of Hillel, Chabad and the local community.

Students like Lily Weisberg, a junior business major, like to go to the Chabad House, located right off North Campus, as a taste of home.

“I feel comfortable there and I love getting a classic home cooked meal, just like my grandma’s cooking,” Weisberg said.

The Chabad House hosts dinner every week for Shabbat and the holiday dinners tend to be more crowded.

Chabad House held a toy drive last week, collecting toys and money to buy toys for children with cancer. The toys will be donated through Chai Lifeline, a New York City-based non-profit organization. The Chabad House hosted an event in the Student Union on Monday to celebrate all of the toy donations and to allow students to celebrate the second night of Chanukah.

“We had so many people at the Chabad Friday night and we’re happy so many people came to the Student Union event,” said Rivka Gurary, wife Rabbi Moshe Gurary of the Chabad House.

Gersten said her sorority Alpha Phi donated a large portion of the toys and wanted to pay her respects to Rabbi Moshe and Rivka.

“I wanted to show my face because it was a nice donation made on our behalf,” she said.

The event featured latkes – potato pancakes – doughnuts and soda for those who stuck around for the menorah lighting.

Weisberg said she attended Monday’s event to “stay connected” with the holiday despite being at school.

“It isn’t that easy to light a menorah for eight days at school, especially during finals,” Weisberg said.

At the event, Rabbi Gurary and his children gave students menorahs, candles and gelt, which are chocolate coins, so they could still celebrate throughout the week.

Rabbi Avroham Gurary of the Chabad House went around to houses on South Campus Monday night to help students celebrate the first night of Hanukkah.

Whether it’s the Chabad House of Buffalo, the Hillel or any other outlet, Jewish students are finding a way to stay in touch with their faith and celebrate the holidays.

Tori Roseman is the senior features editor and can be reached at tori.roseman@ubspectrum.com.