Students join in menorah lighting for first night of Hanukkah

U students joined Jewish community members for the Chabad Hanukkah celebration Tuesday night at the ZCMI center.

U.S Ambassador John Price lit the largest menorah in Utah, according to Rabbi Benny Zippel, with help from Governor-elect John Huntsman.

“What an honor it was when Rabbi Zippel asked me to participate in the Menorah lighting,” Huntsman said. “What a privilege it is to be a part of this celebration.”

According to Zippel, executive director of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, the menorah symbolizes the Jewish festival of rededicating oneself to God.

“It is wonderful to celebrate this Hanukkah with so much joy and happiness around us,” he said.

Benjamin Kesner, a Jewish U graduate student, said he believes Jewish students comprise only a small part of the U campus.

“I would say only 1 to 2 percent of students at the U are Jewish,” he said. “It is nice to have a public celebration that others can participate in.”

U senior Seth Quackenbush said the ceremony was a great opportunity for everyone to get involved with Hanukkah.

“I just moved here from New York and there is not as much diversity culturally here,” he said. “However, there is a rich Jewish culture and a lot of support from government officials like Jon Huntsman.”

Quackenbush said in some ways many Utahns are ignorant of Judaism and Hanukkah.

“When people find out I am Jewish they say ‘You’re a Jew?’ like it’s a plague or something,” he said. “Many of the students I teach through the Boys and Girls club of Utah never heard of Hanukkah or even Jews. They didn’t know what the word Jew meant.”

Quackenbush said the event helped to educate many non-Jews.

“I loved it,” he said. “It should definitely be at the ZCMI Center again because of the exposure it gives our religion.”

Zipple said the event is the result of a conversation that took place years ago with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Gordon B. Hinckley.

“I would like to thank President Gordon B. Hinckley for the use of the ZCMI Center and his support of the event,” he said.

After the lighting of both the center candle and one of the eight candles on the menorah, the observers sang songs of Hanukkah.

“I have never seen anything like this,” said Nate Stansfield, marketing director for The Downtown Malls. “It is very educational.”

Stansfield said Chabad Utah used to hold similar events in the center before the Winter Olympics in 2002.

“After the Olympics I think they just stopped doing it,” he said.

Kesner said the Jewish community has held a menorah lighting ceremony for the past 10 years.

“They stopped having the Hanukkah event in the center when closed for a couple years due to construction,” he said.

Stansfield said the center is always busy this time of year hosting concerts and programs themed toward the holiday season.

“We have so many concerts during this season and this was an event President Hinckley supported so it happened,” he said. ZCMI General Manager David Wright said the event was a success and generated more support from the public than expected.

“It is a wonderful event that has brought people together,” he said. “It gives them the opportunity to share their holiday with others and more people have participated then we imagined.”

Wright said there is a possibility Chabad could hold the event at the center in the future, but as of now ZCMI has no set plans for next Hanukkah.

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