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Kings of College Park

The four-word phrase written across the sides of the traditional dreidel in Hebrew -- Nes Gadol Haya Sham -- couldn't have been more appropriate in Ritchie Coliseum at the University of Maryland on Thursday night.

Despite snow, icy roads and final exams looming just around the corner, the dreidel translation, "A great miracle happened there," hit home -- about 602 people gathered in the gym of the building to break the world record for most dreidels spinning at once, helping the university reclaim the record it held from 2000 to 2005.

"This is up there with Moses and the staff-throwing competition in the Bible, when he parted the Red Sea," said Ari Israel on Thursday, the executive director of the campus chapter of Hillel, which organized the event. "There's a sense of pride, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of ownership with this record."

The crowd broke the record of 541, set by Temple Emanuel of Cherry Hill, N.J. But while the final total easily cleared the Temple Emanuel mark, the outcome remained in doubt right up until the actual spin-off.

Amidst a carnival atmosphere complete with a D.J., food and games, members of the crowd frantically called friends on cell phones, as it appeared the combined specter of snow and finals would derail the event before it could begin.

"I think we'll need a miracle tonight," said Gadi Lefkowitz, a student at the university.

Those who did show up early got to use the moon bounce, chat with friends and take photos with university president C.D. Mote, who said it would be the first time he had ever spun a dreidel.

"I want to help them break the record," Mote said. "I haven't been taught the technology behind spinning it yet, but I'm here to learn and have fun."

In addition to snow and finals studying, the Maryland group withstood similar efforts by Indiana University earlier in the week and the University of Michigan the next night to keep the record.

Despite the possibility of having the record broken by Michigan the following night, student Robbie Freeman didn't have any doubts about the Terps' chances.

"It was hard work; I've been playing for years, playing for pennies, but today, this is the major league," Freeman said. "It feels great. If they break it, we'll just break it again next year."

But just prior to the spin-off, staff for the event announced the university would break the record. And, with Eye of the Tiger, Gonna Fly Now and finally "We Are the Champions" playing in the background, the crowd did just that.

"I'm on top of the world right now," said Rabbi Eli Backman on Thursday, who was present in 2000 when the university broke the record for the first time. "I have chabad colleagues at [Indiana and Michigan]; I'll be calling them tonight."

And he probably told them something similar to the phrase on the dreidel -- that a great miracle happened, at Ritchie Coliseum on a snowy Thursday night in College Park.

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