Thanksgivvukah, Latkepalooza, and Other Festive Portmanteaus

The most epic mashup of all time has come to a close. This past Thursday was the grand finale of the once in a lifetime extravaganza that was Thanksgivvukah 2013. Across the nation millions of Jewish Americans are currently eating the cold remains of their turkey sandwiches and putting away their menorahs. This rare confluence of holidays, a spectacular crossover of celebrations, won’t occur again for another 77,798 years, according to some calculations. This year, Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, began at sundown on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 and ended sundown on December 5th. On the lunisolar Hebrew calendar , the dates were 25 Kislev to 2 Tevet in the year 5774, dates that have now earned their place in history.

Hanukkah, the eight day celebration commemorating the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks, is one of the most recognizable Jewish holidays and is a particularly big one here at BU. According to recent statistics in Reform Judaism Magazine, %15 of the student population (or about 3000 undergrads) identify as Jewish placing us in the top 3 private universities that Jews choose to attend. But Judaism at BU is much more than a mere statistic. The Hillel house, the center for Jewish life on campus located on Bay State Road, is one of the most active student organizations, housing more than 30 student groups, and includes an art gallery, university kosher dining hall, Judaica library, and three chapels. Hillel is constantly holding exciting events such as religious seminars and lectures, interfaith Shabbat services, and the renowned free Shabbat dinner on Friday nights, but the highlight of the year is their massive Latkepalooza event.

Some of the 9000 latkes served at Hillel's Latkepalooza | Photo courtesy of Bhaswati Chattopadhyay
Some of the 9000 latkes served at Hillel’s Latkepalooza | Photo courtesy of Bhaswati Chattopadhyay

Held this past Tuesday night at Hillel, Latkepalooza served as the culmination of a much deserved Thanksgiving break and the continuation of the Hanukkah festivities. Latkes (potato pancakes) are traditionally served during the holiday and this year was no exception. Serving an estimated 9,000 of the fried goodies to a packed house of students of all religions and denominations, Hillel dining staff worked tirelessly to keep those chafing dishes full. The fourth floor was transformed into a carnival, there were tables full of flickering menorahs, the music was bumping, and the good vibes were flowing as students ate and mingled and generally enjoyed the holiday. Said freshman Hellen Giang (‘CAS 17) of the event, “Latkepalooza was a great way to introduce non-Jews to the Jewish culture and to mingle with new people.” At the end of the night, one student was overheard joking “Nes gadol hayah sham” quoting the dreidel acronym meaning “a great miracle happened there.” Along with Latkepalooza, more traditional celebrations were held such as the lighting of the menorah in Marsh Plaza followed by student prayer and personal menorah lightings at Hillel.

Bhaswati Chattopadhyay (‘CAS 16) acknowledged the camaraderie between the students at the event, stating “I came with members of the Humanist society so it was a truly educational experience for me and it was really great to see students representing all faiths celebrating together under one roof.”

Chattopadhyay also noted that the members of Hillel were extremely welcoming saying “one girl talked to us about what each of the candles [in the menorah] represent and sang a Hebrew prayer which was fascinating and made the experience meaningful.”

So while the stuffing and cranberry sauce may be long gone and the dreidels put away for the year, the interfaith spirit at BU will always burn brightly as will our memories of this epic Thanksgivvukah.

Carly Sitrin

I'm the senior editor of The Quad. Interests include: frogs, backpacks, satire, Adele, and the oxford comma. Tweet me your dreams @carlysitrin.

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