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Hanukkah away from home with my Chabad GW family

student orgs


George Washington University


Hanukkah away from home with my Chabad GW family


Shanni Alon


One of the biggest struggles throughout my college experience has been spending the holidays away from my family. Judaism was a staple of my life before coming to college and was something I struggled to maintain in my first few years at GW despite the large Jewish population. Chabad GW has created this home away from home for me and many other Jewish students.

This year is particularly unfortunate as Hanukkah falls during finals week. Not only am I not with my friends and family, but I am locked in a room studying and procrastinating. Luckily, Chabad GW helped me celebrate and procrastinate at the same time with a pre-Hanukkah celebration in Kogan Plaza on Monday, December. 11.

Photo courtesy of Chabad GW and Garrett Mills

The celebration was teeming with students who came out to celebrate and watch us ceremoniously light the candles of the menorah and eat latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts), both traditional foods for the holiday. Over 200 hundred Hanukkah kits were given out, so that students could celebrate in their apartments and even bring them home to their families to celebrate should they be lucky enough to have early exams. The event, which lasted an hour, was brimming full of students who stopped by to take part in the festivities and took a much needed study break.

Photo courtesy of Chabad GW and Garrett Mills

Festivities continued the next day at the National Menorah Lighting to celebrate the first night. Chabad GW was given VIP tickets, which gave members prime seats to watch the candle lighting event. The event featured the United States Air Force band, the beloved dreidel man, prominent members of the Chabad community, and Gary Cohen, chief economic adviser to President Donald Trump, who had the honor of lighting the menorah. Following the event, we warmed up in tents with plenty of food and great conversation. Despite the frigid windy evening the event was full of energy as we welcomed in the first night of Hanukkah.

The National Menorah Lighting featuring Rabbi Shemtov of Chabad GW, Gary Cohn representing the Administration and Rabbi Shemtov of the national Chabad.

"Since coming back from studying abroad, Chabad GW and the Shemtov family have provided some of my most cherished Jewish experiences on campus and in the greater DC Jewish community. I know that I have a family here on campus and they work so hard to help me help other students find their Jewish home on campus, as well. I hope that [Monday's] Hanukkah event gave students a taste of home that they've been missing during this holiday season, " E-board member Andi Heffez stated. "More than that, I hope they continue to engage with the Jewish community here at GW because it has so much to offer."

Chabad GW hosts weekly Friday night dinners in the Chabad Lounge, the slightly off-campus location, that bring a variety of Jewish students together with home-cooked food and great conversations. The Chabad GW board consisting of GW seniors Hannah Finkel, Sydney Walley, Andi Heffez, Abbie Kaplan, Aaron Zorman and the Shemtov family (the Rabbi, his wife, and children) work hard to make this Friday night dinner feel like a piece of home and ensure you never leave hungry. They work to foster a strong Jewish community and invite everyone into the Chabad GW family.