For the first time ever a giant six-foot menorah will be lit on the University of North Florida campus to celebrate Hanukkah and to “spread light” amidst an increase in anti-semitic acts like the recent mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
“We’re just coming out of a big tragedy in Pittsburgh where 11 Jews, 11 lives were taken, unfortunately, by somebody who said it clearly: ‘all Jews must die,’” said Levi Partouche, UNF campus Rabbi. “Instead of feeling bad and putting it away we’re trying to preach with light and unity and peace. That’s the whole point of Hanukkah. That’s the whole miracle of Hanukkah.”
To celebrate, on Monday, the second night of the Jewish festival of light, the Jewish Ospreys, a nonprofit that aims to bring Jewish students together from across Jacksonville, will be hosting a public menorah lighting at the Starbucks on campus at 5:30 in the evening. Partouche said because the shooting in Pittsburgh was so recent, campus leadership really wanted to do something for the students.
“The whole miracle of hanukkah is to spread light where there is darkness,” He said. “Each student will light their own menorah in their own dorm, but on top of that it’s very important that we light one big one on campus so every person can see it and share the light.”
“It’s a very special moment for the entire Jewish community and the entire campus at UNF,” said Partouche. “We’re thinking around 100 students will showup.”
But he’s hoping there will be more. According to Partouche, there are more than 600 Jews at UNF.
Partouche said this was a rare opportunity because Hanukkah doesn’t usually happen during finals. “Usually students leave before it,” he said. “So this year is a special year that we’re able to do Hanukkah on campus.”
If you show up at Starbucks hoping to see some giant torches get lit, you might be dissapointed. The six-foot tall menorah isn’t an actual candle, it’s made up of nine light bulbs.
Partouche said, they will be lighting actual candles too. The giant menorah is just there so that everyone on campus can see and feel the spirit of the holiday.
And if anyone needs a menorah for Hanukkah, Partouche said they should send an email to ChabadUNF@gmail.com. “We would love to give you a kit of the menorah with candles for free that you could light up every night.”
He said people could contact their local Rabbi and they would probably be happy to help out as well.