Students celebrated Hanukkah Wednesday night at the annual Latkapalooza event, where they enjoyed latkes, donuts and community.
The event, co-sponsored by the Jewish Student Union and Jewish Life at Duke, featured a candle lighting with traditional Jewish prayers and a jelly donut eating contest.
The event was meant to help “publically celebrate the miracle of light,” senior and JSU President Sophie Barry said.
“We put on this event every year—Latkapalooza—and honestly it's just a really fun way to celebrate Hanukkah and like a loud and proud way on campus because it's like right in the center of campus and so we get a lot of foot traffic, a lot of people who aren’t Jewish, a lot of people who don’t even know what a latke is or anything,” Barry said.
A latke or latka is a pancake-like dish typically made from potatoes and eaten traditionally around Hanukkah.
“It's really fun to be able to introduce this holiday to a lot of people and just to celebrate with everyone,” Barry said.
Barry was happy with the large turnout at the event, which she said typically draws around 250-300 students. This year’s turnout appeared comparable to previous years, “which is great, especially after last year,” Barry said.
“We had a virtual Latkapalooza, which had a very low attendance. So definitely much better than last year.”
Latkapalooza is one of the two largest events held each year by JSU, with the other being the B’nai Mitzvahs event in the spring.
“It's for people who never had their Bar or Bat Mitzvah and we get to throw it for them. And they study Torah and everything and then we throw a big party for them at the Freeman Center,” Barry said.
The rest of the school year usually features other, smaller JSU events, including various religious and social gatherings and service events.
Barry said she is “so excited that we get to be in person again, this has been so amazing.”
Jewish Life Director Joyce Gordon described the event as “a time to have latkes and jelly donuts and other festive Hanukkah foods, hang out and just celebrate the holiday.”
“It's a great way for the whole Jewish community across all of Duke’s campus to come together and celebrate Hanukkah, which is such a special and fun holiday for us,” said first-year Danya Belkin, a member of the JSU First-Year Council.
Belkin described the event as an opportunity for students of all classes to come together. “It's just a unifying way for us all to be together,” Belkin said.
“It's really exciting to see a lot of people here, both Jewish and non-Jewish students. And the latkes are really great,” sophomore Nicole Rosenzweig said.
She appreciated the opportunity for students to celebrate together even away from home. “It's awesome to be able to celebrate Hanukkah, even away from home with the vibrant Jewish community at Duke,” Rosenzweig said.
Junior Alexa Goble was also reminded of home. “I really appreciate that Jewish Life at Duke does the event because it really reminds me of my mom; during Hanukkah, she would always make latkes, and it has been a tradition in my family for a very long time, so I still get a sense of that when i am away from home,” Goble said.
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Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Parker Harris is a Trinity senior and an editor at large of The Chronicle's 118th volume.