Point Park should be doing more for Hanukkah

Written By Rachel Ross, Co-Opinions Editor

I come from a mixed religious household. Growing up, I experienced a blend of Catholic traditions from my mom’s side and Jewish ones from my dad’s side. Every holiday season has always seen us unpacking the menorah with the Christmas tree, buying chocolate coins along with candy canes and throwing in “Eight Crazy Nights” (basically the only Hanukkah special) along with the Christmas movie marathon. No, I have never gotten eight days of presents and stuff for Christmas; my sister and I have always gotten one thing for Hanukkah and everything else on December 25.

In short, I have a toe dipped in each side. While I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the inner workings of either religion, traditions from both have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Now this year, since my home is roughly three and half hours away from the city of Pittsburgh, for the first time, I’m not able to be with my family during Hanukkah.

For those who may not know, the eight days that Hanukkah falls on changes each year; it isn’t like Christmas where it’s always on the same day. It usually falls sometime before or during Christmas. This element of the holiday makes it difficult to factor into school breaks, assuming that it is factored in at all. Most American institutions schedule their time off in accordance to Christian and Catholic holidays such as Christmas and Easter.

So previously, I would go to school, come home and light the menorah with my family. But this year, that isn’t really a possibility. The idea of whether or not there should be a break for Hanukkah, or other non Catholic/Christian holidays that don’t currently have one is a problem that I don’t really feel qualified to get into. On the one hand, there is a completely valid argument about how, especially in the United States where there is a melting pot of all sorts of different religions and traditions, we shouldn’t honor or make exceptions for just one. And on the other hand, I see how someone could argue that the school systems are not really equipped to add breaks for every holiday and still meet the required number of school days for a year. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how to solve that.

However, what I will say is that considering its short length of time and Hanukkah, maybe for the two and a half week gap between our Thanksgiving and Christmas break…we should have just been able to stay home? I understand that after a year and a half of online learning most aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to do it again; I’m certainly not. But for the sake of having a few less three and a half hour car rides and the opportunity to spend the holiday with my family, I think I would have made it work for the 18 or so days.

But okay, I understand since we have the opportunity now to learn in person together, we might as well do it. However, in that case, I think that certain allowances should be made or opportunities offered for students who celebrate Hanukkah to be able to do so properly from school. Dorm rules prohibit students from having candles, which is understandable, but considering that’s a pretty essential element of Hanukkah, it makes it virtually impossible for Jewish students to celebrate it on their own. If exceptions are made for religious purposes like Hanukkah, it is certainly not common knowledge. The only opportunity I really have in the way of lighting a menorah this year is Google’s virtual one that pops up when you search, “Hanukkah.” You can imagine it doesn’t exactly have the same effect as the real thing.

As a freshman trying to adjust to being away from home by myself for the first time ever, it’s easy sometimes to feel like there’s things I’m missing out on back home; I’m sure that’s something others in a similar position can relate to. I’m not saying being able to light a menorah in my room is going to be able to fix all of that, but being able to maintain that tradition in some way while at school might make it a little easier. Maybe for some that would be counterintuitive and make you miss home more, which I get, but the option should be there for students celebrating to make that decision on their own.

If dorm menorahs are out of the question, or someone doesn’t want to light one on their own, I think it would be nice if the school was able to offer some kind of menorah lighting on campus when the holiday falls before a break. A Jewish staff member could facilitate, or if none are available, a Jewish student could with the materials provided. I think that this could be a good way to bring students together and allow them to celebrate the holiday in the company of others, if they’re unable to be with their families.

I can understand why schools aren’t able to always offer a break that accommodates the holiday; the system that we operate under just isn’t really prepared for that. That’s not any one institution’s fault. However, acknowledging that this is the nature of the system at this point in time, concessions should be made to still allow the time to feel special for students celebrating. It’s not fair that anyone has to just hope from year to year that the holiday will fall during the break, especially for those who solely celebrate Hanukkah. At that point, I do think that some responsibility falls on each university to offer some kind of celebration.