Northeastern community celebrates the first night of Hanukkah with lighting of menorah

Northeastern student Mark Antar lights the Menorah on Krentzman Quad on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, as the community observes the first night of Hanukkah. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

More than 100 Northeastern University students, faculty and staff gathered Thursday evening to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah with the lighting of a menorah on the Krentzman Quad.

Students hugged, sampled jelly donuts and danced to music in the chilly air before the official lighting of the menorah’s first oil lamp.

Speaker Magnus Steinberg, student president of Chabad Northeastern, said this year’s candle lighting drew a record crowd.

Celebrating the faithfulness, courage and resilience of Jewish people in the face of adversity, Hanukkah has added meaning this year, coming two months to the day after Hamas attacked Israel.

“Any excuse we have right now to come together as a community and be able to celebrate Jewish culture and tradition is so special now,” said second-year student Naomi Anbar.

“For me it’s about standing with my fellow Jews as a community saying we’re here and we’re proud to be Jewish,” said first-year student Jonah Sladkus.

Being at the event provided a way to stand against antisemitism, first-year student Max Berger said at the lighting sponsored by several groups, including Chabad, Hillel, Huskies for Israel, and Jewish fraternities Zeta Beta Tau and Alpha Epsilon Pi.

Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow, executive director of Northeastern Hillel, told attendees  she hopes the miracle of the oil celebrated at Hanukkah fuels and energizes them “for the long road ahead of us.”

She reminded them to take care of each other and said, “The light of candles is something we can share with others without being diminished.”

“Hanukkah is a time to laugh and play and be with family,” Paasche-Orlow said. 

She said she hoped for a time “when we can live side by side with our neighbors in peace and safety” and that all the hostages would be released before Hanukkah is over.

“Your presence adds so much to the joy and celebration,” said Jula Gilinsky, a fourth-year student.

“The message of Hanukkah shines especially bright during these troubling times,” said Rabbi Mendy Posner of Chabad at Northeastern. He dedicated the lighting of the menorah by student Mark Antar to members of the Israeli Defense Forces.

People in the crowd sang as Antar, president of Huskies for Israel, climbed a stepladder to light the first oil lamp in the menorah.

Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees after their victory over Syrian Greeks who forbade Jews from practicing their religion. 

The story of the struggle “reminds me what the Jews are experiencing today,” Steinberg said.

According to tradition, Jewish leaders re-entering the Temple found a small quantity of oil, but it miraculously lit the Temple’s menorah for eight nights.

Jews commemorate the event by lighting menorah candles on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, starting with one candle on the first night, which this year began at sundown Thursday, Dec. 7.

The holiday is a reminder that “the good, the positive and the light always win over evil and darkness,” Posner said.

Celebrations at Northeastern continue throughout the week with a program of activities sponsored by Chabad and Hillel, including Shabbat meals, Hanukkah parties and the serving of fried foods that commemorate the miracle of the oil including latkes-potato pancakes-and donuts.

For a full list of activities check out the Instagrams for Hillel and Chabad. To RSVP for Chabad events, send an email to

Cynthia McCormick Hibbert is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at or contact her on X/Twitter @HibbertCynthia.