Chabad at IU, a Jewish organization on campus, celebrated Hanukkah with a menorah lighting ceremony Thursday night at Sample Gates.
The event was meant to be a public display of unity, allowing the IU and Bloomington community to come together to celebrate, according to the Chabad website.
In addition to students and faculty, IU President Pamela Whitten came out for the event.
Sam Fiterman, an IU senior and board member of Chabad, said he was not surprised by the turnout, considering how strong the Jewish community is at IU. He said he has been involved with the Jewish community at IU since he was a freshman.
“This event means a lot to me since I am a freshman, so this is my first time being away from home during the holidays,” Taylor Rudsky, another IU student, said. “Especially with everything that is going on in Israel, it is nice that people could get together and show their support.”
IU freshman Sofia Berkman said the event was a nice idea, as it is also her first time celebrating the first night of Hanukkah away from home.
Carly Bernard and Sammy Sternberg, IU students who helped organize the event with Chabad president Maddie Berkley, said a lot of planning and coordination went into making the event happen — more than most people realize.
Bernard said IU Greek organizations, along with some professors, helped share this event.
“I think Indiana has a very strong Jewish presence, we have a lot of Jewish fraternities, sororities and other organizations on campus,” IU student Jack Bernstein said
Other students agreed with Bernstein’s sentiment.
“I think this event shows a lot of Jewish pride in the community,” IU junior Ava Gevisser said.
Gevisser also commended the precautions taken for the event, as there were two police cars present to oversee the safety of everyone at the celebration.
“This event means a lot, that everyone is showing up, that IUPD is present here and is protecting us," she said.
Gevisser emphasized the celebratory tone of the event.
“Like Maddie Berkley said, the president of Chabad, she has never wanted to put her Jewish Star of David necklace away, and the past several events over the past couple of months have caused her to do that, but it is back out and she is celebrating, and we are all proud to be here tonight,” she said.
Between Oct. 7 and Nov. 7, 2023, the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism documented 832 antisemitic incidents of assault, vandalism and harassment across the U.S., which is a 316 percent increase from the same period in 2022, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
But despite the tragedies of the past months, the event was joyful as the community stood together to mark the first day of Hanukkah.
“I loved having a public candle lighting, I thought it was a super fun way for the community to come together and just overall thankful that Indiana supports it’s Jewish students," Bernstein said.