Toope’s spokesperson hoped the ceremony would send a message of “enduring friendship” to Jewish students and colleagues.University of Cambridge

The Vice-Chancellor, Stephen Toope, joined Cambridge’s Jewish community yesterday evening (29/11) to celebrate Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of light. 

Toope, whose wife is Jewish, lit the first candle of the hanukkiah (a nine-branched candle holder) and gave a speech in what marked the first time the University had officially hosted the ceremony. 

Rabbi Reuven Leigh told Varsity that the University’s participation in the ceremony represented a significant moment for Cambridge Jewry: “This ceremony shows that Cambridge is more than a cultural melting-pot where identifies are blended into one, but rather, a place where everyone can celebrate in their diversity — expressing their identities boldly and proudly. 

“Usually we would have lightings outside my house — one year we had it on Parker’s Piece — but this year we’re doing it outside the University Library.” 

Speaking to a chilly crowd, Leigh alluded to this idea: “Hanukkah celebrates a historic victory where the weak overcame the strong. But even after that tremendous victory they were not satisfied. They realised that it’s not enough to be free from oppression, they had to live their own way of life.” 


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Speaking after Leigh, Toope added how “one of the things that’s fabulous about Hanukkah is the idea of light coming into the world in this miraculous way. I hope we can all find our own little source of oil that carries us through over the next days, weeks and months.” 

Last came a few words from the UL’s director of library services, Dr Jess Gardiner, who said that she was “thrilled” that they could host the ceremony. 

A University spokesperson told Varsity: “The University of Cambridge is pleased to host this giant menorah lighting to celebrate the Jewish festival of Chanukah. As a University, Cambridge welcomes students and staff from all cultural backgrounds and we hope this event will provide our Jewish colleagues and students with a message of enduring friendship over the festive season.”