Jewish Students Discuss Plans for High Holidays

Sarah Mazer ’19, Senior Reporter

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Jewish students will observe Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, on Friday, Sept. 29, concluding a ten-day high holiday period that began with the celebration of the Jewish new year on Rosh Hashana.

Rabbi Rena Rubenthal, who is leading high holiday services at Dickinson for the second consecutive year, says the ten-day period is a time for self-reflection. She said that is particularly meaningful given the current political climate.

“There’s this cynical voice all the time telling us that self-reflection is silly, not important, and doesn’t matter,” Rubenthal stated. She warned that “we’re seeing the result of that in the country. There’s a lot of meanness, there’s a lot of cynicism.”

Rosh Hashana, which was celebrated on Thursday, September 21, signified the beginning of year 5778 in the Jewish calendar and the opening of the “Book of Life,” which is then sealed on Yom Kippur following a day of confession, prayer and fasting.

Blumenthal suggested that while engaging in these rituals, students should avoid getting “caught up in proper dogma, proper theology and forgetting that (reflection is) what it’s all about.”

Students engaged in self reflection following Thursday’s Rosh Hashana service during Taschlich, a traditional ceremony in which participants ceremonially cast away their sins by throwing bread crumbs into the water. Students walked to nearby LeTort Park for the ceremony.

Geoffrey Cole ’20, who is President of Dickinson’s chapter of Hillel, an international Jewish student organization, said that he loves the experience of Taschlich and described it as a “quiet moment of reflection for everyone as individuals.” He added that it allows “first-years [to] seniors to connect with each other and their faith through a practice done all across the world.”

Cole also acknowledged that for Jewish students, high holidays can be a “tricky time to be on campus” because many are accustomed to celebrating the holiday in a particular way and with their own families.

“It’s something you like to do the same way every year,” Cole explained. “It’s like Christmas, or Easter, or Thanksgiving.” He said that many students end up returning home for the holidays for this reason, and recalled his own experience as a first-year student coping with the difficulty of being away from his family during the holiday for the first time.

With this difficulty in mind, Cole said that Hillel aims to “make the process of high holidays as much as an experience of coming home and coming to something you’re familiar with as possible.”

Carolyn Goode ’18, who has attended high holiday and Shabbat services at Dickinson throughout her four years and now works for the Asbell Center for Jewish Life, explained that celebrating holidays at Dickinson has allowed her to grow in her observance of Judaism.

“I’ve always observed [the holidays] at home with my family, but I’ve been able to do it my own way here,” she explained. She added that the Asbell Center “feels like a home” and has been a “very important part” of her college experience.

Yom Kippur begins on the evening of Friday, September 29 and ends the following evening. A pre-fast dinner will be held Friday prior to the Kol Nidre service, which begins at 7 p.m. The following day, morning and evening services will be held at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. respectively, each in Allison Hall. Students will students will celebrate the end of the Day of Atonement by breaking the 25-hour fast at student residences. For further information, email [email protected]

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