For many Jewish students at UD, the High Holidays are a time for reflection, prayer, and family. Some students spent the holidays with their families while others remained on campus. For those Jewish students who didn’t venture home, UD Hillel hosted holiday services and meals on campus.
UD Hillel staff and students strive to create a warm community where Jewish students who are on campus for the holidays feel welcomed. UD Hillel’s Interim Executive Director Donna Schwartz said, “We were the spiritual home for over 225 different students and community members. We served over 250 holiday meals to students who couldn’t go home. It was inspirational to see college students read from the Torah, receive Alliyots, and reflect on what a new year could bring.”
Jason Bonder, UD Hillel’s Rabbinic Associate reflected on how creating such a warm and inviting space is no easy task. “Each student comes from a different place, a different background, a different synagogue. Each person in services recognizes different tunes, different prayers, and different traditions. In my eyes, the great accomplishment of this High Holiday season was making so many students and community members feel a sense of home despite everyone’s different backgrounds.”
Students who had the chance to go home, like Hillel Student Life President Alexandra Nau, were able to continue their traditional holiday customs with their families. “I am lucky in the sense that I am close enough to home to see my family on both the holidays,” Nau said. “Every year, we travel to Philadelphia to be with our very close family friends for Rosh Hashanah dinner.” The High Holidays represent a very meaningful time for many Jewish students. Rosh Hashanah, the New Year of the Jewish calendar, along with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, gives many Jews the opportunity to reflect on their past year and think about changes they can make for the coming year.
Junior Dan Feldman said, “The High Holidays present an excellent opportunity for spiritual growth. Yom Kippur in particular gives me the chance to not only reflect upon my mistakes in the past year, but also to analyze where my priorities lie in my life, and whether my priorities reflect the life I want to live.” Sophomore Heather Brody said, “I think that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are about starting over with a clean slate.Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur is a holiday about forgiveness. These holidays teach us the importance of recognizing the mistakes that we have made, asking for forgiveness, and being able to forgive others. They also offer us a chance to reflect on who we were in the past, who we are today, and who we would like to be in the future. I feel that these ideas are very important to understand and contemplate in order to learn and grow as a person in life.”
There is something special felt when we come together as a community for these holy days. Junior Rebecca Arias said, “The best part of the High Holidays on campus to me is being able to see Jewish students come together (physically and spiritually) to attend services. This is one of the few opportunities on campus where you can easily spot fellow Jews dressed in their synagogue couture, and feel instantly connected to them through a common background without even speaking a word.” On campus, the services were attended by students and community members alike, and were lead by the UD Hillel’s new Rabbinical Associate, Jason Bonder and Delaware Jewish community leader and former UD Hillel Director, Susan Detwiler.
UD Hillel organizes free services and dinners for the High Holidays every year- with a schedule released at the start of the fall semester. More information about UD Hillel can be found at Hillel's website or by stopping in and asking a friendly staff member or student leader.
Alexander Zissman is a junior at UD, majoring in Organizational and Community Leadership with minors in Business Administration and Jewish Studies with Language. Alex is from Bethesda, Maryland, and serves as the Communications Intern at Hillel. He is also Religious Chair of KOACH, and a member of the UD AIPAC Cadre.