Gonzaga is a private Jesuit university and as such it goes without saying that the story of Christmas is a large part of campus during the season. The GU campus is always decorated in Christmas lights and there is a manger in John J. Hemmingson Center.
The GU Jewish Bulldogs have been working to celebrate Judaism on campus at a time where it could be overshadowed by the Christmas themes.
Olivia Jacobs, a member of the Jewish Bulldogs, said that she is used to Christmas being the predominant holiday and with GU being a Catholic university, she does not expect anything different.
“It’s not abnormal to see the decorations and trees everywhere, it’s just sometimes odd that it’s on a college campus as traditionally schools are a ‘neutral’ place,” Jacobs said. “However, we attend a Catholic university, so we can’t be expecting of much else to be honest. Hanukkah is the celebration of light, so sometimes I just think about it that they are all celebrating us by putting up all the lights.”
GU has historically put on at least one event for the Jewish community on campus. The Center for Global Engagement and Jewish Bulldogs have had a celebration in Hemmingson for the Season Of Light, where people can join and celebrate Hanukkah, but with the holiday being late this year there is no planned celebration listed on its event calendar.
“They recognize other holidays, but I don’t think they go out of their way to promote it,” Jacobs said. “For example, if you look at Morning Mail today, there were like four or five ads for Christmas events with no other recognition of other holidays or cross-cultural happenings.”
On GU’s listed event calendar there are five events for Christmas that are happening as opposed to none for any other religious sect.
“Since Hanukkah falls late this year, starting on Dec. 22, we are going to be doing a mock celebration and eating potato pancakes (Latkes) in the University Ministry Office Friday from 12 to 2 p.m.,” said Tessa Rubinstein, the vice president of the Jewish Bulldogs.
There are understandable cultural challenges that students may face at a private Jesuit institution if they have not grown up with similar customs, but Jacobs said that she does her best to bring part of home with her to school. Education is an important aspect to help this transition so that students are exposed to a variety of different cultural backgrounds.
“At school, I mainly just educate my peers on the holiday, invite them to play dreidel, or to light the candles with me each night,” Jacobs said. “When I’m at home, I just enjoy time with my family and lighting the candles at home. It can be hard to bring a menorah to school, so most of the time I just FaceTime with my family to light the candles each night when the holiday falls during the school year.”