Yosefa on Chanuka
by Tzvi Jacobs
"Just remember," Grandpa said to Jill as she unwrapped her
Chanuka present, ballet slippers, "one day you'll make your own Jewish home. You must marry a
Jewish man. Don't ever forget it!"
How could Jill ever forget? Every time she saw her grandfather, that's what he would say.
At age 18, when Jill started her freshman year at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, she
signed up for a course in dance therapy. Her ballet slippers flashed in her mind, and with it her
Grandpa's Chanuka "wish." Jill added a course in Judaic Studies.
The semester whirled by. Everybody was in the dorm on the last Saturday night of the semester,
cramming for final exams.
Jill could still hear her grandfather's words, and then she
realized: "It's the last night of Chanuka. I didn't do anything. Chanuka just passed me by."
Jill was unaware of the Chanuka activities which had taken place that week sponsored by Rabbi
Chaim Adelman of the Chabad House.
Also unbeknownst to Jill, Rabbi Adelman had just received a fax. It said that the Rebbe had spoken
on Shabbat about the crucial importance of Chanuka outreach even on the last night of Chanuka.
Rabbi Adelman rushed out with a bag full of menoras and a camera, and went to one of the high-rise
dorms where he knew one student. He received permission to enter the dorm, gave the student a
menora, and took a picture of him lighting it. Rabbi Adelman was making a photograph album of the
students who participated in his Chanuka activities to send to the Rebbe.
Afterwards, he started on the top floor of the 22-story dorm and went from room to room giving out
menoras to the Jewish students.
Rabbi Adelman was well received. It was around 11:00 p.m. when Jill opened her door to Rabbi
Adelman. Excitedly, she set the menora on the windowsill.
"Our job is to light up the darkness of the world with the light of Torah and mitzvot," Rabbi Adelman
said. "A Jew doesn't have to fight the darkness. We only have to bring out the light, and the darkness
goes away automatically."
Jill said the blessings and lit the candles. She was thrilled as she watched the candles dance. No time
to wait around, Rabbi Adelman whipped out his camera and took a picture of Jill
standing next to her menora.
"How did he get into the building?" Jill's roommate asked when the rabbi left. "How do you know
he's really a rabbi? And he has your picture."
Jill called her mother in Long Island and told her what happened. When Rabbi Adelman got home,
the phone rang. "Are you the man who was in JA Dorm tonight with the Chanuka stuff?" a young
"Yes," he answered.
"Who are you? Why do you do this?"
"I have a Chabad House on campus, and my job is reach out
to the Jewish students, educate them about their Jewish
heritage, and give them the opportunity to do mitzvot,
such as lighting the Chanuka menora, or enjoying a
The girl asked more questions and then, convinced that he was a real rabbi, hung up.
A short while later, Jill's mother called and even threatened to call the police!
Rabbi Adelman was upset by the whole experience and tried to
arrange a three-way conference call between the head emissary, himself and Jill's parents, but they
weren't able to reach the parents.
Life went on and the matter was forgotten.
Rabbi Adelman kept doing his work on campus. Jill also forgot about the incident, except that the
rabbi's words, "Our job is to light up the darkness," remained with her.
After her junior year, Jill went to Israel on a quest to
understand her Jewish identity. She enrolled in Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and took the Judaic
One of her courses was Jewish mysticism, taught by a Lubavitcher. Jill felt that the only people who
could satisfactorily answer her questions were the Lubavitchers.
By the time Jill left Israel she was observant, and was using her Jewish name, Yosefa.
In the middle of the summer, Yosefa came to Amherst. She went to the Chabad House and found
"Hi. I'm coming in the fall to finish my final semester of
college. May I work for the Chabad House? I'm on work/study."
Rabbi Adelman saw that she was articulate and well-poised. "Where have you been all along? We're
always looking for extra help."
"I studied in Amherst my first three years, but last year I was in Israel. I took a course taught by a
Lubavitcher, and started becoming more observant. The Chabad rabbi near my parents on Long
Island advised me to finish college. "Great!
You've got the job," Rabbi Adelman said. "I need help even before classes start, on orientation day. Can you be here August 25?"
Jill and another student worked with him at the orientation table. They met students and told them about Chabad activities. During a lull Jill said, "I have to tell you something, Rabbi Adelman. But you have to promise not to hold it against me."
"Go ahead," Rabbi Adelman said, with a laugh.
"Do you remember about four years ago giving out Chanuka menoras in the dorm? Well, I was the girl who called you that night and whose mother called you threatening to call the police."
"That was you!" he said. "That was nothing."
Jill became very close with the Adelman family, and organized many programs for the Chabad House. She finished college and returned home to in Long Island for a few days, before leaving to learn full time in Machon Chana Women's Yeshiva in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.