The menorah is lit each night and dreidels spun by the children are falling off the tables and to the floor. Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrating the burning of the candle for eight days straight. Hanukkah is beginning on December 2nd in 2018 and lasting eight days as is tradition.
Kailey Speece, sophomore, celebrates Hanukkah with her mom every year, but it isn’t a huge commitment like it was for her mother. She celebrates it, not only because of her religious beliefs, but also because she is interested in religion in general.
“We aren’t super strict about celebrating Hanukkah, it’s mostly my aunt and uncle of my moms side who are strict about jewish celebrations. I also like going to it because I’m really into all religions so I find it interesting. My dad doesn’t usually go to Hanukkah because he grew up Christian so usually it’s just me and my mom,” said Speece.
Although Speece’s dad does consider himself Christian, neither her or her dad are very active with the religion. So she does celebrate some Christian holidays, but it is more for the excitement of it.
“His [Speece’s father] family was barely christian, they weren’t very strict or conservative Christians. He is chill about life and just believes that there is a higher power. We don’t go to any services or practice anything at home. We do celebrate Christmas, but obviously only because we think it’s fun,” Speece said.
After the passing of Speece’s uncle, who was an important and valued part of the family, she will spend this Hanukkah as the first year without him. She was very close to him, and admired him and his devotion to his beliefs.
“Last year my uncle died, who was like the main candle that sparks the unity of our family, so we are all trying to get back up after that. This will be the first Hanukkah without him. I was close to my uncle, he was a very sly and funny person. He was also devoted to his synagogue and volunteered a lot for it. We would always joke around and be sarcastic to each other about things, and gamble a lot because we both loved cards and gambling Jewish chocolate [gelt],” Speece stated.
Throughout Speece’s life, she encountered people who had different beliefs and values that rivaled her own, such as a friend she met as a child. That friend caused her to feel self conscious or embarrassed about her religion.
“I have a friend I met when she moved in a couple doors down from me. She was home schooled and extremely religious. We started to hang out because we lived so close to each other and I told her I was Jewish, and celebrated Hanukkah, Passover, Yom Kippur, etc. She got really upset and said that I have to go to church with her every Sunday and Wednesday, and that she is going to try to “save” me. Since I was 12, I didn’t know better and was very paranoid, so I went to church with her and she would force Christianity onto me and invite me over December nights to learn about God. She isn’t a bad person, she was young and was raised in a strict religious family. I don’t blame her and she’s a really sweet person. I still talk to her to this very day, but that was a point in my life that made me ashamed I was born Jewish,” said Speece.
In recent light, Speece has found friends who are more open minded, and support her regardless. Laura Yon, sophomore, feels as though someones religion does not define them and Yon does not hold Speece’s different beliefs against her.
“Kailey is bubbly, confident, and supportive. She is always willing to bring new ideas to the table, and I appreciate our friendship. I don’t believe religion affects how I see her, or anyone else for that matter. I don’t really have a particular bias towards or against her viewpoints. Religion is a very personal subject. Sure, it can affect how someone behaves or what their personal morals are like, but they should never be the deciding factor on how you judge a person,” Yon said.
Another close friend of Speece, sophomore, Tara Movaghar, also feels that Speece’s religion does not affect their friendship. Speece has been a great friend to her and Movaghar admires how Speece treats her friends.
“Kailey is really outgoing. She’s the friend that’s willing to do the thing that everyone else is too scared to do. She’s fun and always has something funny to add to the conversation. Kailey’s really easy to talk to, for that matter. She’s the ride or die friend. Kailey’s religious beliefs or lack thereof haven’t affected the way I view her at all. I’m indifferent about her beliefs,” stated Movaghar.
Speece has proven herself to be a wonderful addition to her friend’s and family’s lives. As she celebrates Hanukkah this year with her mom and her family, she will be free to express herself.