A CVS Hanukkah

The Maccabees’ oil lasted them eight nights. Boarding school fire code restrictions extinguished the candles before they had the chance to burn. Three of us stood in a small dorm room in front of a flimsy, CVS-bought menorah to celebrate Hanukkah. Outside the window, people poured into a dining hall where latkes were reduced to potato hash despite the valiant efforts of the Paresky Commons staff. This attempt at Hanukkah is pathetic. We are not fanatically religious people; we wouldn’t even consider ourselves very ‘good Jews.’ We view Hanukkah not as an important religious occasion but as a family tradition. Hanukkah is simply our Christmas. We watch our mothers don aprons and stand in front of the frying pan flipping donuts in the oil while our brothers and fathers place yarmulkes on their heads. We sing Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah songs with gusto, reciting them from memory. Having Hanukkah early this year forced us to forgo these family traditions. There is something unsettling about the absence of family during this holiday. At ASM this Wednesday, the first night of Hanukkah was welcomed with a program of uninterrupted Christmas music. Christmas carols are part of the holiday season. In truth, we enjoy them as much as the next person. What the meeting lacked, however, was recognition for the students and faculty who are currently celebrating a holiday. Political correctness is a funny thing; you’re not allowed to publicly wish a “Merry Christmas,” but an unending slew of Christmas music is fine. Even though most Hanukkah songs are limited to minor keys reminiscent of the death march, we still would have liked to see some blue and white among the red and green. Regardless of whether there is anything to be done to bring this holiday closer to home, as Jewish students on campus we feel now, more than ever, the true distance between us and our families. We expected our intimate Hanukkah service to provide some solace, but the unlit candles were only a reminder of how much we were missing. Without the warmth and comfort of home, the prayers in our dorm room seemed futile. No matter how much kugel Paresky Commons attempts to make, they will not fly us home for Hanukkah. This is not a commentary on the efforts of the administration to foster a culturally aware community. We realize that the school is doing the best it can to accommodate students of different religious backgrounds, and we commend them for their efforts. Nobody can bring a family tradition to boarding school successfully. Yes, we can light candles with the Jewish Student Union, but how would it feel to find your Christmas presents under a tree in your common room? So on Christmas, you will open your presents in your living room, surrounded by friends and family. On December 25th, instead of sitting around the tree, we will be eating Chinese food and seeing a movie. At least we can share that tradition with our families. Izzy Kratzer is a three-year Upper from Bennington, VT. Tamara Katoni is a three-year Upper from Los Angeles, CA.