Hanukkah ended this week, but the Los Altos High School Jewish Culture Club continues to raise awareness of the traditions surrounding the Jewish holidays, with the goal of sharing the culture of the religious community and providing a welcoming space for Jews and young people. non-Jews.
Club president Allan Feldman, who is Jewish and attends Chabad Palo Alto, said the Jewish Culture Club hosts events throughout the school year, usually centered around Jewish holidays. For Rosh Hashanah in September, for example, club members told fellow students about the holiday, also known as the Jewish New Year, and shared kosher bagels.
Feldman, a senior, said that while he doesn’t consider himself a “super-observant,” Judaism has always been part of his identity. It celebrates Hanukkah and other holiday traditions throughout the year.
“We light the candles with the menorah,” Feldman said of her family’s Hanukkah practices. “(The menorah) has nine candles and…we light them every night and put them in front of our window. We live on an upper floor so when people are out at night they can see the candles from our window so that’s really nice.
Oil is a central theme of Hanukkah, so Jews indulge in foods containing large amounts of oil, including latkes. Feldman said her mother usually prepares the potato pancake-like specialty for the family celebration, which also includes time for their synagogue activities.
“My synagogue usually has community events, and we usually go there,” he said. “I’m very close to my rabbi, so usually he makes a little speech or something and then we all eat together.”
Feldman described the story of Hanukkah, beginning with a battle and telling how the Jewish people fought the Greeks and secured the temple. The menorah’s nine candles recall the tiny amount of ritual oil that the Jewish people left after the conflict to light their temple flame, which miraculously lasted eight days – the ninth candle is used to light the other candles.
According to Feldman, Hanukkah is about spreading the word of Judaism, passing stories from generation to generation. Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Torah – the fundamental Jewish religious text – because the events that inspired the holiday happened after the Torah was written.
“The reason Hanukkah was created is that the story was passed down,” he said. “Families were telling each other and it got to the point where everyone celebrated it, so for me it’s more of a place where Jews can come together and continue to pass on the stories and tell the Hanukkah story. .”
Feldman sees the holidays as a community-building opportunity rather than a season of giving.
“I think one of the reasons people know Hanukkah as this great Jewish holiday is simply because it comes very close to Christmas,” he said. “But if you look at it from a Jewish perspective, in Judaism Hanukkah is not such a big holiday and the only reason we give presents is because on Christmas you give presents. This has also been passed down through tradition, but nothing in the Torah says anything about Hanukkah, about having to give gifts.
For Feldman, giving gifts, eating latkes and lighting candles aren’t as important as telling stories and building Jewish community.
“Gifting and lighting the menorah is not as important as sharing and telling stories,” he said. “I feel like a lot of people who celebrate Christmas would also say it’s less about gifts and more about spending time with family. So I would say it’s something very similar with Hanukkah.