Students hit the books on Hanukkah

Talia Hendel, Web Sports Editor

Usually, students do not receive any time off to celebrate Hanukkah. As a result, students rejoiced last year when Hanukkah fell in conjunction with Thanksgiving Break, and gave them a few days off to celebrate the holiday. This year, students are happy once more as Hanukkah spans Dec. 16 and ends Dec. 24, giving students one-and- a-half days off to celebrate.

But the inconsistency in receiving days off to celebrate Hanukkah has led some to wonder why.

Contrary to popular belief, the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, is not just Christmas for Jewish people.

In modern times, it can

easily seem that way since there are many similarities between the two celebrations: big dinners with traditional holiday foods, time spent with family and, of course, presents.

However, according to Diann Drenosky, Westport Education Association co-President, while “Hanukkah is a time for celebration and freedom, […] it is not a major religious holiday.”

In fact, Jewish students admit that celebrating Hanukkah does not often require special planning. “On Hanukkah, my family and I typically go on with our regular days,” Jack Kaner ’16 said. “Nevertheless, at night, we gather around the candles, say our

prayers, and enjoy festive meals.” Hanukkah is a holiday that commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabee victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165

B.C.E.
More significant Jewish

holidays are Yom Kippur (the most solemn Jewish holiday, involving fasting, forgiveness and atonement) and Passover (which commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery).

These High Holidays require time off from school and work so that families can make preparations. “The reason we don’t have school on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur is because we are not supposed to do

any work, and we attend services all day,” Kayla Gitlin ’15 said.

“There are so many Jewish holidays, it is impossible to have school off for all of them. … I am just glad that we have the High Holy days off,” Gitlin said. She added that when she lived in Florida, she did not have those holidays off, and her parents had to take her out of school.

Another reason Hanukkah does not require time off from school is because the focus of the holiday is mainly on the evening during the lighting of the menorah. As a result, having school during the day doesn’t directly affect celebrations.

“My family still lights the candles and exchanges presents all at dinner time,” Rachel

Seidman ’17 said.
However, while Hanukkah’s

night-time celebrations do not conflict with the school day, Rachel Morrison ’16 said when work is due during the week of the holiday, it can be stressful.

In addition to candles being lit on all eight nights of Hanukkah, additional prayers are said on the first night, making it more significant than the others.

“I know Hanukkah is not the most religious day that Judaism celebrates, and I understand [the school district] cannot give us eight days off from school, but I believe that we could get one half- day for the first night so people who need to travel to celebrate with extended family have time to get there,” Morrison said.