How Jewish Students Honor the Holiday of Hanukkah


Sydney Haulenbeek

Jacob Buxbaum, junior, is Jewish and celebrates Hanukkah through traditional food and lighting the Menorah.

As the days count down, the Jewish community at Kempsville prepares not for Christmas, but for Hanukkah, an eight-day-long holiday filled with blessings, games, festive foods, and the Menorah. 


Hanukkah, celebrated from December 22 to December 30, commemorates the victory over a tyrant king and the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. 


The menorah, a symbol often used to represent Judaism and Hanukkah, is a candelabra designed to hold the nine candles of Hanukkah. Each of the eight candles – to represent the nights that the one night of oil burned for when Judah and his followers went to the temple – is lit by the “helper candle” called the shammash, which is often seen standing slightly taller than the rest of the other eight candles. During Hanukkah, each night is punctuated by the lighting of the candles, which are traditionally lit from left to right. Gifts are often exchanged on each of the nights, and games are played. 


Cate Benedict
Abigail Williams, junior, celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah.

Abigail Williams, junior, always makes time for Chanukah, which is Hanukkah’s more traditional name. 


“Even if we are out of town, we will Facetime and make time to be with our family,” she said. “It is so important that we spend time together during this time to celebrate the miracle of Chanukah. I Facetime home every night while they celebrate Chanukah, so I can experience it as well.”


Williams celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, as her mother is Jewish and her father is Christian. “I always just went to my father for Christmas and then stayed home for Chanukkah to be with my mom, but lately the holidays have been clashing and Christmas has been landing in the middle of Chanukah. So I do the first night of Chanukah at home with my mom, and then I go up to where my father lives for the next couple of days and come back on Christmas Day.”


When asked how she feels about being told ‘Merry Christmas,’ she says, “It doesn’t bother me simply because I know that some people only know what they were raised to know and they haven’t taken the effort to learn about different cultures. So I just reply with ‘Happy Holidays’.” 


Another Jewish student, Jacob Buxbaum, also a junior, celebrates Hanukkah “by lighting the Menorah each day and eating potato latkes [potato pancakes] and matzo soup [Ashkenazi dumplings].” Both of these are considered staple foods on the Jewish holiday of Passover. Buxbaum’s family tradition includes passing down the menorah from generation to generation. 


If she could share anything to inform others about Hanukkah, Williams said, “I think everyone should know what Chanukah is, why the Jews celebrate it, and why it is eight days.” 


Buxbaum pointed out that “a lot of people aren’t conscientious about other holidays,” and that because it is so close to Christmas, Hanukkah gets glossed over. 


“I just think people need to be more culturally aware,” Jacob said, “People need to come together.”