Yom Kippur is atonement day for Jewish students

by Josh Linehan

Jewish students, staff and faculty gathered at Hillel Jewish Student Center on Monday to celebrate Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.
Those of Jewish faith fasted from sundown Sunday to sundown Monday and are prohibited from working on the holiday. Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers once refused to pitch the opening game of the World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.
Prayer services were held at Hillel on Sunday evening and almost all day Monday.
Yom Kippur is the culmination of the Jewish Days of Awe, which begin on the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur means “day of atonement.”
Rabbi Sharon Stiefel of Hillel said Yom Kippur is a chance for introspection and a time to ask for the forgiveness of sins.
“The prayers we say are based on confessing the sins we have committed before God. We fast to concentrate on introspection,” Stiefel said.
Yom Kippur is a day to take stock of the past year and to focus on improvements to be made in the coming year, said Tidhar Carmeli, a University alumnus who attended services at Hillel yesterday.
“The idea behind the day is essentially introspection — looking back at the year gone by and taking stock of how you can improve yourself,” Carmeli said.
Despite the fasting and soul searching, Stiefel said Yom Kippur is an occasion to be celebrated.
“It is a very hopeful day, because there is the possibility of forgiveness. At the concluding service, we ask to be sealed in the book of life,” Stiefel said.
In addition to synagogue services, Hillel ran a food drive to coincide with this year’s Days of Awe. Grocery bags were placed on all synagogue seats at Rosh Hashanah with attached notes asking worshippers to return the bags full of food on Yom Kippur.
“The whole idea is to make the connection,” Stiefel said. “Our hunger will end at eight tonight, but for many people around the world, the hunger never ends.”
The food drive was sponsored by the Campus United Jewish Community, a student-run organization. The food will be donated to the Brian Coyle Community Center’s food shelf on the West Bank.
University students of Jewish faith faced tough decisions Monday when deciding whether to attend classes or not.
“It’s challenging for the students because it’s business as usual on campus, but they really should be at services,” Stiefel said.
Kelly Feldman, a marketing and communications junior and Hillel student president, chose to refrain from attending classes Monday.
“It’s frustrating, because some instructors don’t understand how important today is. It’s like asking them to come to class on Easter,” Feldman said.

Josh Linehan welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3212.