On the night of Thursday, Dec. 6, Prospect House held its first-ever kosher event: Chabad’s Hanukkah Party.
Dozens of Jewish students attended the event, which featured live music from a violinist, an assortment of food and desserts, and student-led candle-lighting.
Although students on the Chabad Board began planning the specific event about a month and a half ago, the event has been in the works for much longer, according to Chabad’s Co-Holiday Chair Benji Freeman ’21.
Director of the Chabad House Rabbi Eitan Webb explained that he has been working on trying to host a fully kosher Jewish event at Prospect House for “over a decade.”
Webb said that the first time the question “piqued his interest” was fifteen years ago, when he was invited to an event at Prospect.
“I was asked if I have any dietary restrictions. I said ‘Yes, Kosher,’ and they said they didn’t know if they could provide that. They ended up bringing a packaged meal from the CJL, which was very nice, but here everyone was eating this beautiful dinner and I had my packaged meal,” he said.
Over the years, Webb continued to run into roadblocks with hosting kosher events at Prospect.
For instance, when Jonathan Sacks, British Parliament Member and the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, came to speak at the University for the James Madison Scholars program, the reception for him at Prospect House could not be fully kosher.
On a more personal note, Webb also spoke about how Prospect House couldn’t accommodate his daughter’s bat mitzvah.
“We wanted to do it at Prospect House. They said you can, we would love to, but we can’t do kosher. I spoke with several people at the University about hosting it elsewhere but the spaces reserved for faculty private events are Prospect and Palmer House, neither of which could do kosher,” Webb said.
Nonetheless, the Hanukkah celebration on Dec. 6 was fully kosher. Webb explained that the event required the Chabad to think a “little bit creatively” and to understand and work with Prospect House’s concerns.
President of Chabad Board Isaac Wolfe ’20 explained that Chabad held a Hanukkah event this year, unlike previous years, because Hanukkah occurred before winter break.
Typically, Chabad hosts a large event for Purim, a Jewish holiday in the spring. This year, however, Purim falls during spring break. Because of this, Chabad decided to host their large event for Hanukkah and wanted to hold it in Prospect House.
“I figured this [Prospect House] would be an awesome place to hold the event,” he said.
Marina Finley ’19, social chair of the Chabad Board, echoed Wolfe’s sentiments, speaking highly of the warm “kinship” of the Chabad community at the University.
“Prospect House represents the pinnacle of a Princeton social event. To be able to cross this bridge into full acceptance of Jewish community in this social space feels very meaningful,” she said.
In his speech at the event, Webb also thanked the Center for Jewish Life (CJL) for providing the hot food, specifically the latkes, and everyone else who helped make the event happen.
“[Princeton’s] already a university that is so friendly, warm, and hospitable to the Jewish community and to all minority communities. It’s to their credit that they never got frustrated with this process, that they kept working on it until we figured it out,” he said in an interview with the ‘Prince.’
Apart from the event at Prospect House, the CJL organized a variety of other events celebrating Hanukkah throughout the week.
According to a statement from Rabbi Ira J. Dounn of the CJL, the events included “an extravaganza on Sunday, volunteering and the Latke-Hamantashen Debate with President Eisgruber on Monday, the Hebro Jewish Hip-Hop concert on Wednesday, candle-lighting, latkes, donuts, and joy all eight days.”
Executive Director of the CJL Rabbi Julie Roth also hosted a candle-lighting and sushi event for students in her home on the last night of Hanukkah, Sunday, Dec. 9.