Hanukkah timing tough on students

The eight-night holiday ends Thursday this year — before winter break.

A menorah, placed by Jewish student group Chabad, sits at the Knoll area Wednesday.

Juliet Farmer

A menorah, placed by Jewish student group Chabad, sits at the Knoll area Wednesday.

Meghan Holden

For the first time in more than a century, Hanukkah began on Thanksgiving this year — making the eight-day holiday fall outside of the University of Minnesota’s winter break.

Because Hanukkah, which ends Thursday, conflicted with the last weeks of the semester, some Jewish students have turned to University events to celebrate the holiday.

Hillel student board member Sidney Usem said that despite classes, the University Jewish student center has celebrated with various events throughout the week.

Biology sophomore Michael Sobin said he’s celebrated this week by lighting the menorah nightly with his fraternity brothers at Sigma Alpha Mu, a historically Jewish fraternity.

Hillel and Chabad, both Jewish student organizations, are hosting a joint Hanukkah party at Mariucci Arena on Thursday night, Usem said.

“It’s an important event because the entire Jewish community is coming together to celebrate,” said Chabad co-director Rabbi Yitzi Steiner.

Because the first day of Hanukkah coincided with Thanksgiving, he said, students had at least four days to celebrate with their families.

According to University policy, students are allowed to miss class for religious observances if they notify their professors.

Kimberly Hewitt, director of the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, sent an email to all faculty, reminding them of Hanukkah’s early start this year.

She said the University advises professors to be aware of religious holidays before they plan their syllabuses for the semester.

Usem said he expects that professors would be willing to extend deadlines or excuse absences if Jewish students chose to go home for the
holiday.

Usem said he, along with some other Jewish students, chose to stay on campus for the last night of Hanukkah because they don’t want to fall behind in their classes.

“When you have to miss a day of school and make up that time,” Sobin said, “just a day can be a bit of a struggle.”