By Eliana Sirota ‘21
Throughout the week of Hanukkah, Heschel students and staff gathered in the lobby each afternoon to light candles and celebrate the holiday. The Hanukkah programming was planned by the Programming Council and JSL department. Head of High School Rabbi Noam Silverman kicked off Monday’s candle lighting with a speech discussing late President George H. W. Bush, asserting that one need not be president to change the world. The Heschel Harmonizers then followed with a rousing performance, singing an assortment of songs including “Brother” by NEEDTOBREATHE and Al Hanisim. The Cristo Rey School, a Catholic school partnering with the Interfaith Club, attended the candle lighting before their club meeting. JSL Programming Coordinator and Interfaith Faculty Advisor Aliza Sebert explained that club members learned about each other’s food and holiday traditions and played games to both get to know one another and to learn about the holidays.
On Tuesday, the Hesed Council presented the semester cause to the school. According to their website, BIGVISION is an organization working to help “young adults in recovery in New York City learn to live fun, meaningful, sober lives.” The Hesed Council made the connection between Hanukkah and this important cause by explaining that addressing the issue of addiction sheds light on the idea of living a meaningful and sober life. The following day, Joseph Eskin gave a D’var Torah about music followed by a performance from the 12th-grade band. On Thursday, Junior Eliana Solomon delivered a D’var Torah and then students played Macabee Mayhem, an intergrade competition of different Hanukkah-related minute-long challenges; it was won by the juniors.
Despite the holiday festivities, not all students found the Hanukkah programming fulfilling. Sophomore Lia Ortner commented, “While I understand the importance of including Hanukkah-related programming in our daily schedule during the holiday, I would have preferred to see it during first period, while we’re in t’fillah. I found that the amended schedule was more confusing, and the program less fulfilling, because of how late in the day [the programs occurred].”
In addition to candle lighting programs at the end of the day, Student Government planned a variety of ways to celebrate Hanukkah: the Spirit Council greeted students in the morning with fun activities such as a t-shirt raffle, and after candle lighting students were given gelt on their way out the door. Throughout the week, the Hanukkah programming kept the spirit of the holiday in the air.