“Please get your latkes and sit down,” said Engineering junior and Penn Hillel President Alon Krifcher last night to start off a ceremonial menorah lighting in Steinhardt Hall.
Many members of the Penn community – Jewish and non-Jewish alike – gathered at Penn Hillel to light a candle for the sixth day of Hanukkah and share platters of latkes with apple sauce.
Penn President Amy Gutmann, clad in all purple, came forward energetically for opening remarks. “I am proud to be the president of a university that has such an amazing Jewish community that serves as a home to all of our Jewish students and to students who want to celebrate in the culture and traditions,” she said. She then proceeded to light the candles without missing a word of the proper blessings for the lighting.
Afterwards, the Shabbatones, a student a cappella group, along with all-female comedy troupe Bloomers, lit up the room with songs and laughter. The Shabbatones sang two Hebrew songs as well as “Brown-Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, with Gutmann surprising the singers before the third song by jumping in and taking a group photo.
The attendees especially erupted with laughter when the Bloomers performed their special rendition of “Hakuna Matata” from the Disney film “The Lion King” — punningly titled “A Jew for my Daughter.”
Students expressed mostly positive reactions to the event. “It was really great to have Amy Gutmann, who is much of a celebrity on campus, come light the menorah because it brings a lot of new people in the door,” College junior Gregory Segal said. “It’s a fun moment for the Hillel community.”
Krifcher also commented on President Gutmann’s appearance. “She cares a lot about the Jewish community, and is always excited to come and say ‘Hi’ to the students, and the students are thrilled to see her. Penn is such a diverse community, and I think she would do this for any community on campus.”