Hanukkah celebration helps harbor calendar controversy

Karmyn Shreeve, Staff Writer

Hanukkah, a popular Jewish holiday that is celebrated over an eight day period, often occurs over school nights, presenting the controversial topic of whether or not a vacation from school should be given during this time.

For Jewish sophomore Daniel Goldstein, having school the next day disrupts his celebrations.

“Lighting the candles and saying the prayers right before I go to sleep feels rushed,” Goldstein said. “My family isn’t all together until nine o’clock sometimes… so I have to go to sleep right after.”

However, Jewish English teacher Deborah Saltzman disagrees that the celebrations are ever hurried.

“The celebration of Hanukkah doesn’t take much time,” said Saltzman. “You light your candles, you say your blessings, and that could take five minutes.”

The word Hanukkah, named for the reclaiming of the Holy Temple in 200 BC, means “dedication” in Hebrew. In this year, a small group of Jews defeated a powerful Greek army and reclaimed their Temple. Finding an insurmountable amount of oil left in the church, they used what they found to light one candle that miraculously lasted for eight days.

To commemorate this event and the miracles that occurred, every night for eight days, a new candle on the menorah is lit, prayers are spoken, and gifts are exchanged.

For Saltzman, an important festivity during the holiday is food.

“I do like to make potato pancakes,” Saltzman said. “I like making them on the first night, but I’ll pick one night that people are home and make them that night.”

This year, Hanukkah extends from December 12 to December 20, leaving only two days off over the weekend. Jewish sophomore Jordan Manousos does not think the small quantity of days off should be questioned.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily unfair, because a majority of people are Christian,” Manousos said. “But I do think that kids should get excuses if they celebrate Hanukkah since we don’t have it off all the time.”

According to a 2016 census displayed by The Jewish Virtual Library, only about 3 percent of the U.S. population is Jewish. Given that 97 percent of the country does not celebrate Hanukkah, history teacher John Barry agrees that winter break should include Christmas rather than Hanukkah.

“Hanukkah is eight days long. Do you take the first day off or do you take the last day off?” Barry said. “Christmas and Easter are significant holy days whereas Hanukkah is not one of the high holy days.”

Saltzman shares the same opinions with Barry.

“[Hanukkah has] been elevated by some people to give equal attention to a Jewish holiday, but it’s really just a minor celebration,.” Saltzman said.

Barry believes the amount of days students and teachers are given off from school is too many as it is.

“We can’t have a week off for Hanukkah in December and then a week off for Christmas,” Barry said. “The fact that we close school down for a week after Christmas is a bit excessive.”

Saltzman agrees that the celebration of Christmas is often too exaggerated, while Hanukkah and other holidays are not as often praised.

“I do sometimes feel like the pervasiveness of Christmas decorations sometimes goes a little overboard,” Saltzman said. “I feel like in a school setting, it’s not appropriate, because there are a lot of people who don’t celebrate Christmas… But I understand why it creates a festive spirit for people.”