For MitzpehUMD President Darryll Pines (left) and Rabbi Eli Backman (right) both took turns speaking before the menorah lighting. (Charles Summers/Mitzpeh)
On Monday night, this university’s Chabad held its annual public menorah lighting in front of McKeldin Library. This year, President Darryll Pines attended the event and gave a brief speech before Rabbi Eli Backman climbed the ladder and lit the menorah to commemorate the second night of Chanukah.
Tables with latkes, applesauce and hot apple cider flanked on either side of the library’s entrance. In addition to the food, Chabad gave out free menorahs, candles and dreidels for students to take back to their dorms.
Due to the early holidays this year, Rabbi Backman decided to hold the menorah lighting on the second night of Chanukah, since many Jewish students were returning to campus on Sunday night.
At last year’s ceremony, held during the height of the pandemic, only Rabbi Backman, his son Mendel and President Pines attended. “I didn’t really publicize it, we had just a few people,” said Backman. “In years before that, we’ve had hundreds.”
In his speech before the lighting, President Pines also recalled last year’s ceremony, which was his first public menorah lighting that he attended as this university’s president. Also in his statement, he stressed the value that Chanukah can hold for the wider public.
“Chanukah is one of those incredible opportunities where we share in this cultural experience that has come to us from the Jewish faith, but the points of light that it represents for all of us, is hope,” he said to the crowd gathered around him and Rabbi Backman. “I’m so grateful that we can do this on our campus and celebrate this incredible tradition of Jewish faith.”
Remi Jungreis, a junior family science major, helped clean up after the event ended. She initially heard about the event through Instagram and decided to attend, having been to only one other public menorah lighting last year at Towson University.
“I celebrated Chanukah by lighting on my own and going to a COVID-safe public menorah lighting,” she said. “The turnout was good, lots of little kids, but since the university was not open, no university staff showed up.”
The concept of the public menorah lighting was heavily encouraged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to spread awareness of the miracle of Chanukah. This university’s public menorah is one of around 15,000 around the world.
“It’s not just the ‘holiday season’ that motivated this campaign. Inherent in the menorah lighting is an element of sharing the miracle, ‘Pirsum HaNes’ in Hebrew,” said Backman. “Going back to the Talmud and even before that, they wanted the miracle to be shared, they didn’t say just go light the menorah in your house. The goal is to share the message and the miracle with people, whoever they are.”
President Pines also noted the importance of the public aspect of the menorah lighting.
“Chanukah and this celebration of the lighting of the menorah can hold hope for any person of any culture, not just those of Jewish background,” said President Pines. “It provides a sense of light, and helps us alleviate our fears of what the future may bring.”