Jewish Life at Duke


Chanukah (often spelled “Hannukah” or “Channukah”) means “Dedication” and the Jewish holiday that commemorates the military victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 164 BCE.  The Syrian-Greek king Antiochus IV forbade Jewish worship in ancient Israel and defiled the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, turning it into a Greek temple dedicated to the Greek god Zeus.    After a three-year war led by the Hasmonean family, popularly known as the Maccabees, after their military leader Judah the Maccabee, the Temple was once again in Jewish hands and rededicated to Jewish worship.  When the Temple was rededicated, there was an eight-day celebration in the Winter since it had not been possible to have the eight-day celebration of the Autumn festival of Sukkot.  There is a tradition that the reason for the eight-day festival was that there was only one small vial of pure oil for burning in the Menorah, yet that small vial miraculously lasted for eight days until more oil could be made. 

The festival is celebrated by lighting candles each night in a chanukiah, a nine-branched lamp that is distinct from the regular menorah, which has seven branches.  Food traditionally eaten on Chanukah include sufganiyot (fried jelly donuts) and latkes (potato pancakes).  Jewish Life at Duke parnters with the Jewish Student Union to celebrate Chanukah by sponsoring Chanukah candle lighting around campus and with the Latkepalooza Hannukah party.

Learn more about Chanukah. If you need a menorah or holiday candles, please drop by the Freeman Center for Jewish Life or e-mail Jewish Life at Duke.