Form and Function: A Menorah of Canned Goods

by S. Olidort - BINGHAMTON, NY

November 26, 2002

Collectors of Jewish artifacts will be amused by this menorah, too large to take home, yet unlike any of the giant menorahs that will grace public squares next week.

Made entirely of cans—food cans—the menorah will stand 15 feet tall, and will be disassembled by the holiday’s end for a very noble cause.

“You can light up a life!” Chanukah campaign by Chabad of Binghamton University, creatively combines a worthy humanitarian aid project with a joyous Chanukah celebration. Hundreds of students have committed their time, effort, and donations to a project aimed at collecting as many, maybe even thousands, of cans of non-perishable foods to form a fabulous menorah on the center of campus.

The novel menorah will be kindled at the culminating menorah lighting ceremony and Chanukah bash, after which the cans will be donated to CHOW, an organization that provides food for the destitute.

Inspired by the wide appeal and success of Chabad’s Mitzvah Marathon—a September 11th commemorative event (see archives), Rabbi Aaron and Rivky Slonim, directors of the Chabad Student Center here hit on this idea as a way to get students to put their energy toward an important cause in the spirit of the Chanukah holiday. Alpha Sigma Phi frat members lit up when they heard the idea, and invited two campus sororities --Sigma Delta Tau and Phi Sigma Sigma, to join.

“When we first heard about the project, the plans were vague and some students were skeptical about it ever coming through,” says Gil Efrati, a fraternity member and chairman of the project. But a table in the student union manned by members of the fraternity and sororities has attracted the attention of hundreds of students, and dorm-to-dorm publicity and fundraising has generated widespread enthusiasm for the project, bringing an outlandish idea to fruition.

According to fraternity member Jordan Gherson, “this year’s Chanukah celebration is going to be really big.” The reason, he says, is the “support and involvement of a wide range of students.” And with poverty in the Binghamton area on a 40% increase, the project couldn’t have been more appropriate.

“You Can Light Up A Life!” addresses many concerns, says Gil. Not only are students participating in the mitzvah of tzedaka, but the project is making everyone aware of the Chanukah holiday. “Everyone will know about Chanukah this year,” says Gil. “If they haven’t heard about it, then they’re sure to see it,” he says.

Ultimately, says Gil, the project will boost student morale and convey the importance of coming together for a positive cause. “It will show students the power of the collective student body, and what great things can be accomplished when we unite.”

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