University Hanukkah Celebration: Illuminating our Community

By Rabbi Daniel Schaefer

A bespectacled male student wearing a blue sweatshirt lights a candle on a menorah while a man with a beard, a rabbi recites the blessings for lighting the Hanukkah candles

Daniel Greilshemer (SFS ’26) lights the first candle of Hanukkah while Rabbi Schaefer recites the blessings for lighting the Hanukkah candles.

At the darkest time of the year, Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights reminds us to bring more light into the world by rekindling our faith and dedicating ourselves to a higher calling. At Georgetown, one way that we do that is by bringing our faith into the public space and sharing the religious teachings that illuminate our path. 

On the eve of final exams, the Jewish community celebrated the first night of Hanukkah with a University Hanukkah Celebration. Hundreds of students, staff, and faculty joined together in Copley Formal Lounge for a festive gathering with latkes, singing, and even some impromptu dancing. 

Light is a universal symbol and each religion has a different story about its importance and meaning. I believe that letting the wisdom and beauty of one tradition shine, invites others to do the same, so Hanukkah felt like the perfect opportunity to celebrate our shared value of being a community in diversity. This year’s Hanukkah celebration was enriched by Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, Hindu, Orthodox Christian, and Sikh students, who offered readings and blessings about light from their tradition as we lit the candles together. 

I was deeply moved by celebrating something so particularly Jewish, in a community of many faiths and traditions. Joining together for food and fellowship was a powerful reminder that building a multi-faith, multicultural community on campus can make all of our communities safer, stronger, and more vibrant. In the words of the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, “For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we are each free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world.”

Rabbi Daniel Schaefer is the Interim Director for Jewish Life.