Jewish at U mark start of new year

Hillel hosted services for those who couldn't go home for Rosh Hashanah.

Emma Carew

For many students, a big party and a giant silver ball dropping in Times Square symbolizes the new year. This week, Jewish students celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year’s, much differently.

The Hillel Foundation, a Jewish student organization, helped students who were unable to be at home for the High Holy Days, the time from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, to celebrate.

Hillel offered Rosh Hashanah services at sundown Monday, the start of Rosh Hashanah, and again Tuesday morning.

Rosh Hashanah is a time to take a moment and think about the bigger things in life, said Jewish Campus Service Corps fellow Benjie Davis. It’s a time to just think about the world, friends and family, he said.

“We celebrate the year that has just passed and look forward to the year ahead,” Davis said.

During the services, the chapel was adorned in white, and many members of the congregation, including the cantor, were dressed in white as a symbol of the new year, linguistics graduate student Bryan Gordon said.

Different songs and melodies are also used during the holidays, he said.

Tashlich is a ritual in which Jewish people throw breadcrumbs into a local river or moving body of water as a symbol of casting away sins. Hillel offered tashlich following Tuesday morning services.

Gordon said he took part in tashlich and also laid tobacco in the river as part of his American Indian culture.

It’s an important time to be thinking about your family and your ancestors, he said.

A dinner was also held at Hillel after Monday evening services.

Rosh Hashanah is also about community and being with family, said Associate Director Rabbi Sharon Stiefel.

Davis said, “Even if you can’t be with your family, you can be here (at Hillel) with your friends and with your fellow Jewish people.”

Some traditions that take place during Rosh Hashanah include the blowing of the “shofar,” a ram’s horn, which calls the Jewish people to be aware of their lives and see where they may have gone wrong, Stiefel said.

Apples are dipped in honey as a symbol of a “sweet new year,” she said, and challah bread is baked round, rather than oblong, to show the cycle of time.

First-year student Jill Sadur said Rosh Hashanah is important to her because of the feeling of community from being with fellow Jewish people and her family.

A native of Chicago, Sadur said she was unable to be with her family during the holiday. She said she attended services at Hillel, but still felt like she was missing some parts.

Sadur said she missed the Taschlich service and the traditions of her synagogue at home.

“It’s different here,” she said. “I have been celebrating with the same people since I was born.”

Psychology senior Erica Holzer said she thought it was nice to be with a group of people who were in the same boat as her: not able to return home for the holidays.

“I ate dinner at Taco John’s tonight,” she said. “At home, I would have had a big family dinner.”

Holzer said the Days of Awe, the 10 days between the New Year and the Day of Atonement, is like “taking stock of how you’ve been as a Jew and how you’ve been as a person.” She said people think about what needs to change and how they’re going to make those changes.

She said it’s also a time that emphasizes a connection among human beings, and how that connection can be made better in the next year.

Another tradition during this time of year is to send greetings to one another, Stiefel said. Jewish people will call their friends and family and often send greeting cards.

The Days of Awe are a time for people to go back and think about what they have done in the past year, Davis said.

“You go back and make it better if you can,” he said. “If there are people you need to say I’m sorry to, that’s the time to do it.”

Jewish tradition teaches that if a person hurts other people, that person has to go back to them and ask forgiveness, Davis said. A person must try up to three times, but after that, it’s up to the others to forgive, he said.

The High Holy Days culminate in a 24-hour fast for Yom Kippur. Hillel gave out brown paper bags during Rosh Hashanah services to be brought back filled with groceries on Yom Kippur, Stiefel said.

Sadur said this is a time when she tries to stick to the traditions, such as eating kosher foods and sending greetings to her friends and family as much as possible.

These are the judgment days, she said, the ones that decide your fate for the next year.