Nearly 100 community members, including Mayor Elizabeth Goreham and Rabbis Hirschel Gourarie and Nosson Meretsky, turned out for the 15th annual menorah lighting in the State College area on Wednesday night.
The lighting of the menorah is a symbolic tribute to both the religious and historical significance of the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah.
The event was hosted by Chabad of Penn State on the steps of Old Main, shortly after the sun crested over the horizon, on an already chilly Wednesday evening near the end of Penn State’s fall semester.
This is a message of religious freedom.
Rabbi Hirschel Gourarie
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“This is a message of religious freedom,” Gourarie exclaimed. Gourarie moved to Penn State in August and this was his first menorah lighting at the university. He appeared both visibly excited and happy for the turnout Wednesday evening.
We are blessed to be in such a wonderful community in such an amazing country, that is America.
Rabbi Hirschel Gourarie
“We are blessed to be in such a wonderful community in such an amazing country, that is America,” Gourarie said.
Several attendees echoed his message, including Stacy Jarvis, a freshman at Penn State. “I love to see people out celebrating openly,” Jarvis said. “It’s awesome to see all the different Jewish organizations coming together, too.”
Gourarie gave opening remarks prior to introducing Meretsky to the crowd. Gourarie told the crowd the spirit of Hanukkah is about celebrating “the right over the night” and “bringing light to the world.”
Meretsky told the crowd he was happy to see them and that this night was about “celebrating miracles,” telling the group, “you are all miracles in yourself.”
Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights is an eight-day celebration of the “miraculous victory,” and “dedication,” of the menorah, Meretsky said.
It is especially a symbol of the “triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter, of light over darkness,” according to “Experience Chanukah,” a message based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Goreham also spoke at the event, telling attendees that “the Jewish community adds so much to our community.” Later, Goreham told the CDT that “embracing diversity is important” and will always be her mission.
“It’s great to see the whole community come together,” said Rebecca Balcunas, a Penn State junior.
When asked what this night means to hear, Miriam Urqhart, a Penn State junior, said. “It just means pride. It’s a source of pride for us to be able to share our traditions with the entire community.”
After the fourth candle on the menorah was lit, students and community member broke out in song and dance.
Traditional Jewish food, including latkes and donuts were served.
Hanukah ends on Monday.