Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Chabad at UCF celebrates Grand Menorah Lighting with President Hitt and a toy drive


Sisters from Alpha Epsilon Phi.

Hundreds of students gathered together outside of the UCF's Student Union to celebrate with the Jewish organization Chabad and its co-sponsors AEPI, AEPHI, ZBT and Knights for Israel with a menorah lighting ceremony. The event provided latkes, Chanukah music and a toy drive. 

President Hitt opened the ceremony and lit the Shamash, the center candle on the menorah, which is used to light the other candles. Hitt welcomed the evening and Chabad with some inspirational words.

"When I became president in 1992, one of the five key goals that I established for UCF was to become more inclusive and diverse. This event illustrates the inclusivity and diversity that distinguishes our campus along with the universal value of coming together for the common good," Hitt said.

Dean Pizam of the Rosen School of Hospitality sang the blessings, lit the candles for the third night of Chanukah, and led the crowd in Maoz Tzur and other traditional Chanukah songs. 

Rabbi-Chaim Lipskier took to the podium to speak briefly about the holiday.

Many students were excited to be at the event including freshman Rachel Huss. She explained why joining Chabad was important to her. "I went to a small Jewish school so I wanted to continue to learn about Judaism and Chabad's a great place. I've learned a lot and hang out with a lot of Jews so it's really nice. It's like a little community."

The highlight of the evening was the toy drive represented by Jewish Adoptions and Foster Care Options (JAFCO). Hundreds of toys were donated by the students. 

JAFCO is an organization that provides services to abused and neglected children. Representing the organization for the toy drive was Chabad member Samantha Simon. JAFCO is near and dear to her heart for many reasons and she explained why, along with how she collaborated with Chabad. "JAFCO was a big part of my life, my parents were the first foster parents when the organization began in 1992, so my little sister was adopted through JAFCO. I actually had foster kids in my home growing up. I had been going to Chabad and one Chanukah I came to Rabbi Lipskier and said let's give back, we have such a large community, I would love to find a way to reach out to them and give back to an organization I love."

The evening concluded with some final words about the message Chanukah brings from Rabbi Lipskier, who was also celebrating the birth of his son who arrived a couple of hours before the event.

Brothers from Zeta Beta Tau.

"When you see darkness in the world, when you see pain in the world, when you see what's wrong with the world, there are two options. Either A, its G-d telling you this is your mission in life, it's your job to fix it but that's why he showing you these problems, or B, it's time to bring light into your own life and you need to fix yourself. If we take that message to heart, that every time we see pain and suffering, every time we see a moment of darkness, every time we see a struggle, or something that's not okay, ask yourself, A, what can I do about it, is this my mission to fix? Because often times it is. Or B, am I just seeing things a little bit off cause I need some fixing? I think it's essentially what the message of Chanukah really is: adding light."

To learn more about JAFCO please visit Jafco.org

To learn more about Chabad at UCF or to make a donation please visit jewishucf.com

This article was originally published on Knights News.


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