Prof. Marcelo Kormis, a previous Rabbi in campus ministry at Sacred Heart University, looks forward to his Hanukkah celebrations this year. As he continues to teach virtually at SHU, he shares that the community here does not hesitate to recognize and celebrate a variety of holidays.
What are your personal celebration plans for Hanukkah this year?
“Hanukkah this year is very special because of the pandemic. Unfortunately for the past two years, we have been celebrating Hanukkah amidst the global pandemic that has affected all of our celebrations. I used to invite many people home, and each person would bring their menorah. The first night we would light one candle, the second night we would light the second candle, and so on until we complete the eight nights of Hanukkah. Due to the pandemic, we are planning to do something similar. We plan to invite a reduced number of people to our home and to light the menorah together with my family. We also give small gifts to each of the kids every night. And, of course, food is very special through Hanukkah. We eat latkes, which are fried potatoes and donuts.”
Do you feel like there’s a large community of people with the same faith and traditions as you at SHU? What is your personal take on the community here?
“The Sacred Heart community is very special. It’s very spiritual, people are very open to share from their religion with other people. From my time here, I could feel that regardless of your religion, it is more about who you are and how you want to connect to people who feel that they belong to something that is greater than themselves. The celebrations also go beyond your religion, and I think Sacred Heart works very hard to celebrate the different holidays regardless of your personal tradition.”
What is your favorite part about Hanukkah?
“I love the food, but the element that I like the most is the idea of bringing light to the world; to society and to our homes. When the days are starting to feel shorter, and you are starting to feel this cold weather, you think about how many people are suffering also due to the pandemic. So I think that even if it is one little candle that can bring light to the world, it brings light to the community and light to your life. I think it’s very special and very meaningful during this time of the year. One of my favorite parts about Hanukkah is also that we all have this little candle inside of us, and wherever we go, one of our tasks should be to light other candles that are around us.”
Do you have any favorite Hanukkah songs?
“The song follows the dreidel when it spins, so I do that with the kids. The kids love to go down to the floor, so that’s one of my favorites. It’s called ‘I Have A Little Dreidel.’ There’s another song that I like very much. You know, Jews were scattered around the world, so you have them living in Europe and others in Asia, Africa, everywhere. So they adopted the traditions and the local languages. So Ladino is the language of the Jews who were living in Spain and Portugal. So, since I’m from Chile and Spanish is my mother tongue, I love a song called ‘Ocho Kandelikas.’ It means eight candles and it talks about each candle that we light.”
Should more people start saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” out in public since not everyone celebrates Christmas? Is this something you are conscious of?
“Yes, I am conscious of it. Even more, when I greet someone when I don’t know their religion, I would say ‘Happy Holidays’ because you want to make that person feel well and included. I’ve seen that people are doing this more, which is important as it is a special time of year when our society is starting to fill out with light.”
Do you have any particular traditions, specific to your family, that you carry out each year?
“Yes, there is a game that you play on Hanukkah called the dreidel. We give chocolate coins to kids, and they play with this dreidel. Sometimes the kids lose all of their chocolate coins and someone wins and some share the coins with another kid. I love that celebration, and that’s very special in our house.”
Why do you think it’s important to celebrate and recognize Hanukkah on a Catholic campus?
“I think we have a common spiritual heritage, regardless of our religion. Whether it’s coming from the Torah or the Bible, values are shared with other religions, and I think those values are shared by many who are on campus today. I think it has to do with the value of bringing light to the world, working toward a better society, and working toward a better world. So, I think that regardless of our religion, one of the main goals we have today is how we can work together in order to continue making our society better and helping those who are in need around us. The celebration of a Jewish holiday in this case has so many values, ideas and important messages to our society.”