MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — As Hanukkah begins, many are celebrating the holiday while taking time to speak out against the rise in antisemitism.  

“Together we must stand up against bigotry in any of its forms. Our democracy depends on it,” Merrick Garland, attorney general, said during the White House’s annual Menorah lighting ceremony. 

In North Central West Virginia, the Jewish Student Center at West Virginia University is a safe space where students don’t have to worry about their religion.  

“Unfortunately, there is growing antisemitism,” Rabbi Zalman Gurevitz said. “For a Jewish student, anytime they interact with someone when that person finds out that they’re Jewish, there’s always like a tension point. How are they going to react?”

“Chabad means family to me. I really wouldn’t feel at home here without Chabad,” Esther Shaab, WVU Jewish Center co-president said about her time with the center.  

“Everyone loves a Jewish Mountaineer” shirt (WBOY Image)

The center also provides students with a sense of community and belonging.  

“For a Jew, the only way to get that is by being in touch with your soul. So, for them to make that sole connection, that’s what we’re here for,” Rabbi Gurevitz said. 

“I am so thankful for all the relationships and the friendships that I have made being here at Chabad. It has made my college career even that much better,” Hannah Cantor, WVU Jewish Center co-president said on the center’s Instagram page.  

Chabad Chanukah sign (WBOY Image)

As each candle is lit through all eight nights, Rabbi Gurevitz said there’s a lot to learn from them. 

“When you want to brighten a room, you can’t chase away the darkness with sticks and stones. You need to do it with light,” he said. “The message of Hanukkah. is that we need to keep on being positive and being kind and increase acts of goodness and kindness and eventually that will make the world a better place.” 

The Chabad Jewish Student Center was established in 2007 at WVU. Rabbi Gurevitz said they have a small Jewish student population that he estimated to be around 2-4% of the entire university, but anyone is welcome at the center.