UNIVERSITY PARK — Dreidels were spinning in the HUB-Robeson Center’s Alumni Hall on Tuesday as Penn State students tried to break a world record.
As part of their Hanukkah celebrations, Penn State Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, wanted to do something over the top. That’s where the traditional Hebrew spinning game came in to play.
Eric Yoffee, a sophomore in marketing, was part of a United Synagogue Youth group that set a Guinness world record for the most dreidels spinning at one time, 743, two years ago. When students started talking about making a bold Hanukkah statement this year, he thought breaking the record would be a great way to go.
They prepared with baskets of brightly colored plastic dreidels. There was a treasure trove of chocolate gelt coins in gold, silver and blue foil. Volunteers segmented the room into a grid of taped-off areas to make counting spinners as easy as possible. Rules were strict, with proctors for each 50-person group, video documentation and only one dreidel per person. The goal was simple: everyone had to keep their dreidels spinning simultaneously for 10 seconds.
They had everything they needed. Except enough people.
Hillel Executive Director Aaron Kaufman said they had hoped to have 800 to 1,000 participants to break the record. Unfortunately, turnout fell short. The final tally was just 144 dreidelers. But if anyone was disappointed, it didn’t really how.
“While not a new Guinness record, we believe we did set a Penn State record,” said Kaufman, who would like to see the attempt become an annual event. “It was a great opportunity. We had a really diverse group.”
The number of people exposed to the unique cultural spin on a religious tradition may not have been as big as hoped, but there were plenty of Jewish students sharing their holiday with each other, and with new people.
“I’ve never spun a dreidel before,” said senior Maggie Eason.
Connor Hill, 5, had a bright orange dreidel and a chance to fulfill a dream.
“He always talks about wanting to break a world record,” said mom Nikki. He also got to hug the Nittany Lion, so not making it into the record books seemed OK with him.
There was also the real meaning of it all, which wasn’t lost in the fun of the seventh evening of the eight-night Festival of Lights.
“It’s not just about breaking the world record,” said Yale Williams, a geography senior. “It’s Hanukkah.”