Five weeks into my study abroad program, last year Yom Kippur began on the evening of September 22nd. Of my closest friends on the program, only one also identified as Jewish. Though thousands of miles from home, we decided to follow the same procedure of fasting and break-fasting, while embracing that the celebration would deviate from years prior. Instead of spending the day at synagogue with family in our hometow
ns, we spent the day reflecting and relaxing, while Netflix played in the background. When sundown approached, we didn’t drive over to a family member’s house for a feast of bagels and lox. Instead, we and our three friends, whom were not Jewish, walked to our favorite sushi restaurant (FYI—sushi on a conveyer belt, if you’re unfamiliar I recommend you google pictures after finishing this article, seriously) and had ourselves a night.
Thinking back to last year’s Yom Kippur inspired me to ask the question to my friends here on campus— “what does fasting mean to you?” Dana Lefland, a senior who is currently on Year Course, a gap-year program in Israel, finds the fast a nice way to make a bit of a sacrifice so that she can feel better about the year she's had and how to learn from her mistakes.”
Alec Madiefsky, raised in what he describes as a dual religious family with no specification or schooling to a faith believes that, “it is important to fast because it means you are true to your religious belief,” although he does not personally fast.
For Julia Rossiello, a UD sophomore from Great Neck, NY, usually fasts every year, but couldn’t this year because of an exam. She affirmed that, “while I could’ve gotten it changed, I got too stressed out to ask for another exam time.” This, however, does not detract what the holiday means to Julia. She defines the fast as, “an important religious experience that us as Jews do to cleanse for the New Year.”
Though my most unconventional to date, I identify last year’s Yom Kippur as my most special to date. At the day’s end, I felt excited to begin the new year, in a city where I genuinely felt the world at my fingertips. Celebrating “the holiest day of the year” with friends both Jewish and not in a comparatively less unfamiliar environment brought truth to the old saying, “to each his own.” I could still identify with my upbringing, even if my upbringing couldn’t seem further detached than the lifestyle I presently lived. As college students, our schedules vary— we often find ourselves held to seemingly impossible standards, both academic and professional, that force us to make difficult decisions. Yet do these decisions make us any less “Jewish?”
Absolutely not. Last year, I embraced the beauty in the different ways to observe Yom Kippur, and upon evaluating the differences among friends back on campus, I deem that beauty sealed.