What's expected to be the largest public menorah lighting in the Triangle is taking place in the Pit on Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. to celebrate Hanukkah.
The community-wide event is hosted by the Chabad of Durham/Chapel Hill, with support of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity and the Sigma Rho Lambda Sorority, two Jewish Greek organizations on campus.
The event will include an LED light show, donuts, music and an appearance from Chancellor Carol Folt.
Rabbi Zalman Bluming, director of the Chabad of Durham/Chapel Hill, said the organization has hosted the event for over 10 years. He’s especially pleased with the University’s involvement with the event.
“Its warm embrace of all students allows them to feel comfortable with their identity,” Bluming said. “I hope that it’s something that can make the Jewish community feel more comfortable and proud to celebrate their religion.”
Senior Lizzy Stompel said she has attended the annual menorah lightings since moving to Chapel Hill, mentioning how important it was for her to be physically involved with the lighting at such a young age. Now, as both president of UNC’s Chabad and treasurer of Sigma Rho Lambda, she has played an integral part in planning the event.
“Having that experience, I wanted to do something similar for the Jewish community,” Stompel said.
For over a month, she and other Chabad members organized the event, from planning the intricate LED light show to reaching out to University administration.
“I’m really excited to have a little bit of everyone kind of participating with a huge festivity right in the middle of campus,” Stompel said. “I wanted to plan something big.”
Both Rabbi Bluming and Stompel said the lighting is one of the most celebrated and symbolic Jewish holidays.
“Hanukkah candles are really the light that Judaism brings to the world when we’re unafraid to announce our identity to the public, to live by our principles and to defend, if necessary, our freedoms,” Bluming said.
Bluming said Hanukkah is also a celebration of religious freedom and appreciation of different holidays during this time of year.
“It’s a symbol of pride and the ability to feel comfortable, especially at a university like UNC that cherishes individualism,” he said. “The holiday really embodies that.”
In the wake of recent anti-Semitic attacks in the United States, Bluming said the thousands of menorah lightings across the country are a symbol of solidarity and perseverance that he hopes everyone can partake in.
“Especially now when there’s so much darkness and chaos in the world, a little bit of light helps dispel the darkness,” Bluming said. “When you kindle flames, it creates light.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.