Esther Teitlebaum speaks with Rabbi Chaim Boyarsky. Photo credit: Stephane Gunner

As the fall semester ends, the holidays get into gear and with the celebration of Hanukkah.

On Dec. 15, the Students’ Association hosted and celebrated its first early Hanukkah kickoff in the Student Commons at the Ottawa campus, where guest speaker Rabbi Chaim Boyarsky shared the meaning of the menorah and the Hanukkah celebration.

Rabbi Boyarsky said this Sunday is the first night of Hanukkah, and this message is to bring light to others and light the menorah when it’s dark and cold outside.

“Since most people will leave during December since schools are closed, we celebrate Hanukkah early,” said Rabbi Boyarsky. “It’s a beautiful honour — there is a sense of community (at the college), it has an inclusion.”

With Hanukkah starts on Dec. 18 and ends on Dec. 26, the eight-day celebration revolves around the kindling of a nine-branch menorah. Each night, a candle is added to the menorah after sundown, where Jews recite blessings during the ritual. Finally, the menorah is placed in the window to remind others of the miracle that happened when the candles lit up for eight days.

“I want to encourage you all to celebrate Hanukkah, not only on Hanukkah but all year round, to kindle others when it’s lonely and dark and when they’re alone and outside. And to build others and make sure they are happy,” said Rabbi Boyarsky to the attendees of the event. “It’s always about doing good to others, but not in a way where it’s about us.”

“This year, we purchased a six-foot menorah in celebration of Hanukkah,” said diversity and inclusivity events coordinator for the Students’ Association, Nakeya Francis.

Francis said it was the first time having an event of this style in celebration of Hanukkah and the Students’ Association was excited to bring in the Jewish community and celebrate the holiday.

Francis explained that the Algonquin College community gives recognition and opportunities for other students to learn something and have fun with their fellow college community members.

First-year practical nursing student Esther Teitlebaum said the experience of inclusion felt good in the college community where the Jewish community is small.

“Having a pre-Hanukkah celebration at the school is special. We can share this with other people — the meaning of it applies to everyone about making the world a better place and shining your light and not letting others dim it,” said Teitlebaum.

Her favourite childhood memory of Hanukkah was when she was with her family and friends at the Hillel Lodge, a nursing home in the community.

“We dressed up like little menorah crowns and we would sing to the people. My family and my friends would all go together. So we would just be able to share the holiday with people who don’t necessarily have so much family or people nearby to be able to celebrate with them, so that was always really special to do every year,” said Teitlebaum.