Amid the boughs of holly and carols December brings, Shternie Zwiebel doesn’t want people to forget about Chanukah.
That’s why Zwiebel and the University’s Chabad House, where she is activities director, rented out a storefront on Liberty Street and transformed it into Chanukah Wonderland.
Chanukah Wonderland is set up like a state fair with menorahs, a multimedia room showing films about the Jewish holiday and edible dreidels made out of marshmallows.
The exhibition opened yesterday across from the Necto nightclub and expects to receive more than 500 visitors over the course of Chanukah, the eight-day long Jewish holiday that started at sunset last night.
“The event is to help raise awareness of Chanukah at a time when most people’s attention is on Christmas and Kwanzaa,” Zwiebel said. “Our goal is solely to bring Chanukah alive for everyone here.”
Similar exhibitions have taken place in other communities around the country and the world. Zwiebel approached Chabad in August about creating a store in Ann Arbor. Zwiebel and others from Chabad spent the last week setting it up, which is housed in an empty bank on East Liberty Street.
Chabad Associate Director Rabbi Alter Goldstein said that, especially in American culture, Chanukah is one of the bigger Jewish holidays. He said he’s glad to see it getting attention when most people think of Christmas around this time.
Moreover, he said it has a universal message of good conquering evil and that Chanukah celebrates freedom.
University of Michigan Hillel is also holding Chanukah events.
Because the Jewish calendar is lunar, the dates of holidays vary each year. This year Chanukah falls earlier than it has for several years. Usually Chanukah falls closer to finals and Winter Break.
“This means that campus groups can put more focus on the holiday this year,” said Joel Marcovitch, assistant director of Hillel. “It’s the first time we’ve been able to pump Chanukah up in a number of years.”
On Thursday night on Ingalls Mall, Hillel will attempt to break the world for the largest number of dreidels spun at the same time. The current record is 716 concurrently spinning dreidels, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
A Southfield, Mich. franchise of Dunkin’ Donuts has donated 1,000 Kosher donuts to the event. Each participant will receive a donut, a menorah, a dreidel and Gelt which is a chocolate with a gold wrapper made to look like a coin. Anyone is invited to attend the event.
Marcovitch said he hopes it will raise awareness about Chanukah around campus.
“It’s such a showy Jewish holiday,” he said. “We wanted to bring campus together.”
So far, Zwiebel said response to Chanukah Wonderland has been positive. She said that young children, students and even older people have visited the store.
“People are just so happy to have it,” Zwiebel said. “We’ve had great reviews.”
On Sunday, the store will host Chanukah and the Chocolate Factory, with chocolate fountains and dreidels made of chocolate.