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CHAMPAIG — Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel and the University of Illinois Chabad Center for Jewish Life are embarking on a campaign to spread positivity in the C-U community.

The message is a timely one as Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, approaches.

Tiechtel said more than $37,000 is being spent on a campaign that includes taking out a number of billboards in the cities.

This year’s eight-day holiday runs from Sunday to Dec. 6. It celebrates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem in Second Century B.C.

Tiechtel said the Jews were being oppressed as Syrian emperor Antiochus Epiphanes sought to prohibit them from practicing their religion.

Many were murdered, and the temple was desecrated.

“Many times when something like that happens, people step back and say, ‘I’m going to be quiet and not make noise.’” Tiechtel said. “But the Jewish people said, ‘We will stand up for what is right.’”

After the Jews defeated a vastly superior Syrian army, they sought to purify the temple and light the menorah that was inside. Given just enough pure oil to light the menorah for one day, the people said they would trust God for the oil to last. It did — for eight days.

“What is the message for us today?” Tiechtel said.

“I think it’s more important than ever when times are dark, and things are tough, to add a little light.

“We have to think, ‘What kind of life do I want to live? Do I want to live a life constantly reacting to struggle, constantly reacting to hate? Or do I want to be proactive in the community?”

Tiechtel said he and others at Chabad feel strongly about the need to present a positive attitude and message.

Illini Chabad will work with the mayors of Champaign and Urbana as well as businesses and others “to spread the message of light and life.”

That includes billboards “all over the Champaign-Urbana area to celebrate life, celebrate hope, celebrate the victory message. It’s a message for the Jewish community: Don’t be reactive to hate. You should stand wherever you are as a proud Jew. It’s a message to the larger community, a message of life.”

The campaign will also include the purchase of additional menorahs — elaborate candelabras used in Jewish ceremonies — to be placed throughout campus, Market Place Mall, Urbana City Hall, Willard Airport, Carle Foundation Hospital and several other locations.

In several of the major dorms on campus, menorahs will be lit and maintained from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the main lobby since they are not allowed in dorm rooms due to safety concerns.

There will also be treats and dreidel games.

“Hanukkah is a family time, and this time it’s during school,” Tiechtel said.

“It’s the next best thing to being home” for the students.

There will also be a time of visiting hospitals, senior citizen centers and many homes “creating a spirit of Hanukkah,” he said.

A COVID-19-safe event will be at 6:30 p.m. on the first day of Hanukkah, Sunday, Nov. 28, in the parking lot at Champaign Public Library, which people can watch from their cars.

There will be the lighting of a giant menorah, treats and children’s crafts.

A variety of Hanukkah events will take place during the eight days, ranging from mini celebrations nightly throughout campus, to a lighting of the grand menorah on the UI quad attended by university President Timothy Killeen to a party at Kam’s Thursday, Dec. 2, and a student Hanukkah Shabbat four-course dinner at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at Chabad. A separate meal will be held Dec. 2 at Bromley Hall.

“Everyone should always remember, a little light can chase away a lot of darkness,” Tiechtel said.

“Darkness is the absence of light. Everyone can decide, ‘What type of life do I want to live?

“Let’s spend less time thinking about what’s wrong with others and spend more time in trying to understand and come together with others.”

For more information about the Hanukkah events, visit jewishillini.org/chanukah21.

Our County Editor

Dave Hinton is editor of The News-Gazette's Our County section and former editor of the Rantoul Press. He can be reached at dhinton@news-gazette.com.

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