By Dr. Stan Eisen, Professor and Director of Preprofessonal Health Programs, Biology Department, Christian Brothers University
Photos by Mary Nikkel
Christian Brothers University prides itself as welcoming students and staff of all traditions and faiths. Even so, there has never been a Hanukkah Menorah lighting ceremony until now. On Sunday, December 2, members of the CBU community met at the Buckman Quad to learn about the Hanukkah Holiday and to participate in the first-ever lighting of the CBU Hanukkah Menorah.
This started with an observation I made two months earlier, during our Fall Break, that Hanukkah this year coincides with the last full week of classes at Christian Brothers University. During a conversation with Dr. Samantha Alperin who is Head of the Education Department at Christian Brothers University, this realization led to the proposal to build a campus Menorah that will stand in the central Quad and to celebrate Hanukkah on campus.
Ideas like these take on a life of their own as more people are drawn to the idea and volunteer their time to make it happen. The initial step was a sketch I drew and showed to Bill Hecht, Director of Maintenance.
Bill, in turn, made some suggestions regarding the particular lumber which should be used, and offered to have the lumber cut to the appropriate size in the Maintenance Building.
After delivering the lumber and hardware to the Maintenance Building, Russell Gourley, who is the carpenter for the Maintenance Department and a part-time Baptist Minister, offered to cut the 4’ x 4’ base into a Star of David. Mr. Gourley did the actual assembling of the Menorah, and that allowed the students and me to paint it and to attach short PVC collars on the cross-bar to accommodate the battery-operated candles. The students who participated ranged from freshmen to seniors, and included a number of Honors Program members, including Michael Mendez, Lance Silvis, Matthew Etts, and Sarah Laney.
While I ordered a supply of dreidels (100 of them!) and printed instructions on how to play the game, Michael Mendez, who is a member of the Honors program, arranged for refreshments to be available at a reception following the ceremony.
Students, faculty, administrators, and staff attended the ceremony, presided by Rabbi Jeremy Simons, Director of Hillels of Memphis. Rabbi Simons discussed the history and meaning of the holiday, and Matthew Etts lit the candles. Part of the ceremony included singing the English version of Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages).
While I thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony and appreciated the fact that it was a group effort, it had a bittersweet element for me. My older son, Rabbi Yosi Eisen, died in June, 2018, so the Menorah has a memorial plate on the base that states that the Menorah is dedicated him. In the same way that he brought spiritual light to the students at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, where he was the Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus rabbi, my goal is to do the same in my everyday affairs.
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