Jewish new year coincides with beginning of school year

by Stacy Jo

For a number of University students, the start of the school year corresponds with another new beginning.
Sunday evening marked the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The holiday lasts through sundown Tuesday.
During Rosh Hashanah, a solemn, introspective holiday, Jewish citizens are encouraged to focus on their behavior over the past year. On this day of judgment, they try to atone with God and with fellow humans whom they have wronged.
Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of a holiday season for the Jewish community. Ten days following the commencement of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish celebrate Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.
“For the most part, these are probably the holiest days of the year,” said Jewish student and College of Liberal Arts junior Lisa Schiller.
Because the start of Rosh Hashanah so closely followed Saturday’s residence hall move-in day, staff members at Hillel, the University’s Jewish Student Center, do not want the holiday to get lost in the shuffle.
“(The students) may feel a pull between all other activities,” said Rabbi Sharon Stiefel, Hillel’s associate director.
Stiefel said many Jewish students who are new to the University will celebrate the holiday away from their families for the first time. She added that some students will choose whether to celebrate the holiday at all, since parental influence will not play such a strong role for students living away from home.
“Being away from your family, it’s a way to hold on to your identity,” said Alyssa Abrahamson, Hillel’s Jewish campus service corps fellow.
Stiefel said Jewish citizens make their own “new year’s resolutions” on this holiday. However, given the religious nature of the holiday, the content of these resolutions extends beyond typical new year’s resolutions such as losing weight or improving one’s grades.
“It’s this wonderful time to feel reflective and have a new beginning,” Stiefel said.
Hillel staff hosted worship services Sunday evening and Monday morning, and will host a final Rosh Hashanah service Tuesday morning. Services feature special prayers and the blowing of the shofar, a ram’s horn, to awaken sinners to their deeds.
A festive meal to honor the holiday followed Sunday evening’s worship service. One of the traditional Rosh Hashanah foods served at the dinner was bread, or challah, molded into a round shape to symbolize the circle of life.
Because one of the themes of the Jewish new year is sweetness, the meal also included apples and honey, one of the most common sweet foods consumed on Rosh Hashanah.