TORONTO — Students at York University gathered last week for the second annual “Canorah” event sponsored by Chabad at York.
The event calls on students to build a chanukiyah out of cans of food in order to raise awareness about Chanukah while collecting food for students who struggle to put food on the table for themselves.
The 480 cans collected to build the chanukiyah were donated to the York Federation of Students’ food bank and will also help launch a kosher food pantry that Jewish students at York can access.
“We actually have students unfortunately that come to us, and they need food,” said Vidal Bekerman, director of Chabad at York. “So we thought what a great idea to launch a kosher food bank for students.”
Although Chanukah doesn’t begin until Dec. 20, Chabad at York chose to hold the event before students begin writing exams and before winter break.
“It’s a great opportunity for everyone to come together and celebrate Chanukah,” said Joel Pearl, program director for Hillel at York. “It’s probably the most relatable Jewish holiday. Whether you have a broad base of Jewish knowledge or you don’t, you always know about Chanukah.”
Pearl’s words seemed to echo throughout the afternoon. While some students helped construct the chanukiyah, others took the opportunity to enjoy another activity associated with the holiday – playing dreidel with silver Chanukah gelt on the floor of Central Square.
According to Rena Friedman, president of Chabad at York, the event was a great way to combine tradition with an act of kindness.
“It’s a unique way to do an act of chesed and to combine the theme of Chanukah, which is to bring light to the world,” she said. “It is also a great way to raise awareness and to demonstrate how important it is to donate food and make a difference.”
Upon the completion of the chanukiyah, Bekerman spoke about the importance of on-campus events such as Canorah. His short speech was followed by a candlelighting ceremony in which various students and school representatives, including from Hillel, B’nai Brith, Hasbara and the York Federation of Students lit the nine candles of the chanukiyah.
Bekerman said this isn’t the only type of event Chabad at York holds to promote acts of kindness among students.
“We do an event called ‘Loafs of Love’ where we get together on a Thursday night and bake challah,” he said. “We have a group of students that come and we bake 100 to 150 challahs, and then we distribute them to six old-age homes on Friday afternoon for Shabbat.
“We’re always looking for more ideas. With the Canorah event, this year is our second, next year will be our third and we hope it continues to get bigger and better.”