Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are holidays for deep reflection, confession and apology. This year, with the High Holy Days coinciding with major college football games, the beginning of the school year and other season-opening activities, students are contemplating what to do when conflicts arise – while university officials, from New York to Tennessee, are making this a season for saying they’re sorry.
With all this activity, is it any wonder that the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Hillel – sponsoring its first-ever High Holy Day services this year — has dubbed this period the “Ten Days of Awesomeness.”
Celebrating the Holidays on Campus
It’s a beautiful day in the early fall and 30,000 of your best friends are heading toward the stadium to participate in a ritual: tailgaiting followed by football. What’s a Jewish student to do when game day falls on Yom Kippur?
Writing in the University of Georgia Red and Black newspaper, student Caryn Klein discusses the decision she made and what she wants the school to do about it.
And that’s not all. Jewish students at the University of South Carolina protested the school’s decision to schedule Parents’ Weekend on Yom Kippur.
Even New York University, the private school with the largest Jewish student population in the country, ended up apologizing for sending out a mass e-mail on the evening of Yom Kippur.
Speaking of apologies, the University of Tennessee’s charismatic male basketball coach, Bruce Pearl, hosted a press conference on the second day of Rosh Hashanah admitting that he violated NCAA recruitment guidelines. Pearl, who is Jewish, has been a major supporter of Jewish life on his campus, across North America and in Israel.
No apologies were in sight when four members of the Westboro Baptist Church – a group the ADL calls anti-Semitic — staged a protest at Northwestern Hillel on Rosh Hashanah. While the group sang songs of hatred, students held a counter-protest and spread love and hugs all around.
On a happier note, in Houston, the Hillel has become a magnet for area residents who seek an alternative to non-interactive services.
Jews and Muslims Bond
Muslims and Jews are interacting to provide support and understanding for one other. The Muslim Student Association at Emory University joined with Hillel for the breaking of the Ramadan fast. At Florida Atlantic University, Jewish students joined Muslims in protesting a pastor’s plan to burn Qurans on Sept. 11. The Jewish Student Union sponsored a meeting open to all, discussing the Islamic faith and gaining respect for Muslims.
Two universities have just opened Hillel Houses. The University of British Columbia has opened a beautiful 15,000-square foot facility that also serves as a center for social justice, advocacy, education, spiritual exploration and recreation. Washington and Lee University’s $4 million building has a kosher café and classrooms.
The University of Missouri – Kansas City has a new Hillel organization on campus. The first big gathering for the organization will take place on Oct. 29 with a Shabbat dinner.
Arizona State University students have started two new clubs on campus, a Hebrew-speaking club called Medabrim and Sun Devils for Israel, a club that supports and promotes Israel’s message on campus.
The Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh will be screening 200 students for a Jewish genetic disease on October 13th from 12-8 pm.
And, Finally, Hillel Gets a Major Media Boost
No not the campus Hillel, the ancient Jewish rabbi.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin has published a new book titled “Hillel: If Not Now, When?” which promotes the great sage’s belief in the importance of ethical content of Jewish tradition. Telushkin has swept the media around the world discussing the Hillel’s relevance for today. Find out more about Hillel’s teachings and why he has a college organization named after him.
Meira Kirschbaum is a student in Washington, D.C.