Festival of Lights: Hanukkah, celebrated at Georgetown

Despite the fact that many students were heading home for break or were already on their way, over fifty Georgetown students, faculty, administrators, and staff gathered in Healy Hall on Tuesday for the lighting of the Georgetown Hanukkah menorah.


On a cold and rainy day, the celebration was warm, spirited, song-filled and exuberant.  The sizable crowd was a real affirmation that Jewish Life at Georgetown is shining brighter and stronger than ever. Rabbi Gartner shared a teaching by her colleague Rabbi Sharon Brous, saying:

A Benedictine Monk named David Steindl-Rast, says that religion is like an erupting volcano: it gushes forth, the magma flowing down the sides of the mountain – fiery,
powerful, dangerous.  But that magma quickly cools off.  A couple hundred years pass, and what was once alive is now dead rock, devoid of all traces of life.  “Doctrine becomes doctrinaire. Morals become moralistic. Ritual becomes ritualistic.” Sound familiar?  So much of religious life in this country, in this time, has become rote, perfunctory, banal.  And the numbers bear out the dissatisfaction: a steep demographic drop-off among young people, unprecedented disaffection and defection and a general and overriding sense of disinterest.  Boredom.  There’s nothing for me here, in this religion of hard, dead rock. What can be done?  “Push through the crust,” says Steindl-Rast, “and rediscover the fire within.”

Rabbi Gartner reminded those gathered that this is precisely what she hopes to accomplish at Georgetown: To help each student push through the crust of their dissatisfactions and discover the fire in Judaism that ignites their interest; To equip students with the Jewish tools to find a flame in Jewish Life that  brings them light and hope, strength and 16042989062_48ce7f737c_z
vision and; To teach and model a Jewish fire-in-the-bones for justice and tikkun olam (healing of the world).

As we seek rest and joy this holiday season, may we be granted that rest and joy. And, at the same time, as the story of Hanukkah teaches and in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (The Other America) may we never become “more concerned about tranquility and the status quo, than about justice, equality and humanity.”

Rabbi Rachel Gartner (new window), Director of Jewish Life