By Eugene “Jesse” Nash IV
Sound the shofar! Rosh Hashana starts sundown Sunday evening with opportunities each day to celebrate and reflect with Hillel or Chabad this year.
While many students plan to go home for the holiday, Hillel expects hundreds to attend services and meals going on around campus on Monday and Tuesday according to Annie Prusky, springboard education fellow for Hillel.
Rosh Hashana, which translates to “head of the year,” is a holiday that marks the Jewish new year. Students reflect on the past year and transition to the next with text readings, discussions and services.
This year, Hillel plans to host all three.
“At most times of the day there is something going on,” Prusky said.
Maryland Hillel will host Reform, Orthodox and Conservative services starting Sunday night at sundown through Monday according to the website. On Tuesday, Hillel will host Orthodox and Conservative services.
Hillel will also provide kosher lunch and dinner for students–with vegan and vegetarian options–every day of Rosh Hashana. The menu includes soups, chicken, potatoes and desserts like honey cake. Prusky said students can certainly expect to eat apples and honey, a ritual meal for the holiday.
In between meals and services, students can attend discussions on the texts from the services regarding topics of morality, repentance and celebrations, and a Tashlich ritual Monday afternoon.
Tashlich originates from the Hebrew word “to cast” according to the Chabad website, and the ritual involves reciting verses of repentance near a body of water to cast off the sins of last year. Students who are interested on Monday can join the Hillel group who will “walk to a lake, [and] talk about how to reflect on things that [they] want to improve over the last year to the upcoming year,” Prusky said.
For students who still want to go to classes during Rosh Hashana, Prusky said every student is different; some attend programs all day, while some manage to balance celebrations and reflections with their school routine.
Brenna Yaw, a junior government and politics major, plans to go home on Sunday night, return Monday for morning classes and attend the late option Reform service Monday afternoon before heading out to more classes.
Prusky said Hillel has been hosting Rosh Hashana services for “decades… longer than anyone at this university can remember.” A 1968 Diamondback article cites a history of at least 50 years.
Only five years ago, Rosh Hashana fell on the first week of school to the dismay of some students. But this year, students have had two weeks to meet their professors, connect with other Jews and set up their routines for the semester.
Prusky said that many Jewish holidays fall throughout the school year, and she encourages students to make their own decisions each time as to how they will recognize the holidays.
Hillel has holiday class exemption forms on its website for students who need documented permission from professors to attend Rosh Hashana events.
Prusky also wants students to know they are always welcome to bring their own shofar to services on Sunday night.
Chabad will host holiday meals and provide opportunities to hear a shofar as well, according to their website.
Rabbi Eli Backman said in an email that Chabad is hosting two shofar themed events. Monday night is “Shofars and Sliders” at Chabad, while Tuesday night is “Honey Cakes and Shofar” in front of the North Campus Diner. Chabad will also host meals Sunday evening through Tuesday afternoon.
More information can be found on the program scheduling when students RSVP on the Hillel website, www.marylandhillel.org. Information about Chabad’s holiday plans can be found on its website at www.umdchabad.org and facebook page https://www.facebook.com/umdchabad/.