Remembering a miracle: How one South student is celebrating Hanukkah

Nina Simon '21, Page Editor

Freedman’s family’s Hanukkah Menorah all lit up. Photo courtesy of Miranda Freedman ’21.

The Jewish celebration Hanukkah marks the miracle of oil remaining lit in a temple for eight nights, after being expected to last only one. The Jewish community observes the holiday, which began at sunset on Dec. 10, each year. Miranda Freedman ‘21 is celebrating the holy day differently this year.

According to Freedman, her family celebrates Hanukkah through a myriad of traditions. She and her family light candles on menorahs each night until they are all illuminated on the eighth day.

“The point of Hanukkah is to celebrate a miracle that happened thousands of years ago, when the oil in the temple was only meant to last one night after it was destroyed, but it lasted eight,” Freedman said. “We light candles every night and eat foods fried in oil to celebrate life.”

This year, Freedman and her family will follow different traditions, due to safety concerns regarding COVID-19. While it is common for Jewish communities and families to have larger celebrations for Hanukkah, this year will be more low-key to keep everyone healthy, Freedman said.

“(We will not be)getting together with our friends from our temple or with other Jewish families because of the pandemic,” Freedman said.

Living in Grosse Pointe, a predominantly Christian community, Freedman said she is accustomed to being different than the average Grosse Pointer. According to Freedman, Jewish students live an entirely different experience than Christian students do and are not respected by the school system.

“Jewish students don’t get school off for our holy days like Yom Kippur, whereas Christian students have just about every holy day off,” Freedman said. “I’ve even had situations where my teachers don’t let me make up assignments if I miss for a holy day, which is just wrong.”

Freedman said she feels that religion is only a small portion of the joy that comes with the holiday season. Freedman added that she and her friends participate in “Secret Santa” every year and enjoy the sense of community it brings.

“The holidays are about spending time with friends and family, not about labeling things according to religious differences,” Freedman said.

According to Freedman, there is a false stereotype about Hanukkah, which represents it as a holiday simply meant to give gifts. Freedman said that there are much more meaningful aspects of Hannakuh than presents.

“My favorite part about Hanukkah is the scene where on the eighth night, my family has lit all the candles on each of our respective menorahs, and the flames illuminate our living room in the dark,” Freedman said. “It’s beautiful, and I find it very special.”

While this year may be different, Freedman said everyone should realize their good fortune. According to Freedman, the holiday season is plagued this year by loss and grief.

“We should celebrate the miracle this year (of health and safety), while acknowledging the sadness of being away from our communities,” Freedman said.