The Hebrew word Hanukkah means “dedication.” The holiday, often thought of as a celebration of light, honors the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem back to Judaism in 139 B.C.E.
Hanukkah starts Dec. 2 at sundown this year. The holiday always begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, a lunar calendar, and lasts eight nights.
In the Greek Syrian empire during that time, Jewish people were oppressed and told they couldn’t practice their religion. The Jewish temple in Jerusalem, then part of the Syrian empire, was taken over by the empire, and Jewish people were not allowed to worship there.
A group of Jewish people known as the Maccabees eventually drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem and returned to the temple to cleanse and re-dedicate it, Rabbi Sue Silberberg, executive director of IU Hillel said. They cleared the temple of the Greek idols and built a new altar. When they went to light the Menorah, there was only enough oil to burn for one night. Hanukkah celebrates that the oil burned for eight nights, until they were able to get more oil.
The Helene G. Simon Hillel Center at IU begins its Hanukkah celebrations Dec. 3 with a Hanukkah party at 7 p.m. at the Hillel Center on Third Street. The event is free, and participants will be able to make their own Menorahs, eat traditional Hanukkah foods like jelly donuts and latkes, play dreidel and light the Menorah.
Hillel offers free Shabbat dinners most Friday nights and will hold a special Hanukkah Shabbat 8 p.m. Dec. 7 with more traditional Hanukkah foods and candle lighting.
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