For Jewish students, holiday season brings together family, tradition and stress of missing classes

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By Mohan Xu
For Mitzpeh
@XuMohan1

It is the Jewish holiday season, and Jews around the world, including students at this university, are celebrating a series of holidays. 

According to Maryland Hillel, there are 6,500 Jewish students on campus, which certainly qualifies as a big Jewish community.  

The six students interviewed for this article said their decisions to go home or stay on campus for the holidays depended partly on the nature of the holiday. Many students go home to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. However, students prefer to stay on campus for some of the following holidays like Yom Kippur or Sukkot. 

Some students also pointed out that the decision to go home or stay on campus depends on where they’re from. Zoe Tesser, a junior criminology and criminal justice major, is from St. Louis, Missouri, so she usually stays on campus. However, Tesser went home to celebrate Rosh Hashanah this September because her brother also went home.

“I know for a lot of students who are more religious and live more locally, they always go home,” Tesser said.

Adina Schwartz, a senior psychology major, lives nearby. Schwartz felt it is a lot easier for her to go home because she did not need to worry about the travel time.

“I like being able to see my family and keep doing the traditions that I have grown up with at home,” Schwartz said.

Rosh Hashanah took place from Sunday, Sept. 29 to Tuesday, Oct. 1. All six students interviewed for this article missed classes, averaging three missed classes each. Miriam Charnoff, a junior civil and environmental engineering major, said she missed six or seven.

“I missed a lot of classes; I missed for the holiday, but not traveling time,” said Ariella Wolf, a sophomore mechanical engineering major.

Tash said she has gone home to celebrate with family every year. Photo courtesy of Mira Tash.

Many students say they are stressed from missing so much class. “It is a lot of preparing ahead of time because you know it is coming; but at a certain point, there is only so much you can do,” said Mira Tash, a senior special education major. While Tash mostly dealt with larger assignments, other students missed midterm exams and quizzes.

Wolf, for example, has a quiz every Monday and Tuesday for her math class. But, the holidays were also on Monday and Tuesday.  

Some students have even more extreme experiences with missing classes. 

“I was sick for two weeks right before the holidays and have not been to a full week of classes,” Ateret Frank, a senior psychology major, said.

Most professors understand Jewish religious holidays and that students will need to miss classes.

Tesser said her professors are “accommodating,” and Schwartz also mentioned that her teaching assistant helped her make up a mandatory lab.

However, not all students feel the same way. 

“It is surprising, they [professors] understand you are sick, but they do not understand Jewish holidays so much,” Frank said.

For students who could not go home for the holidays, the students mentioned that Maryland Hillel and other on-campus organizations provide services and programming to celebrate holidays. Therefore, going to services and celebrating with friends are the best ways to celebrate the holidays when students stay on campus.

“I usually went to Conservative services at the [Memorial] Chapel and spent time with my friends,” Tesser said.

Wolf said it is a different atmosphere to celebrate the holidays at school rather than at home, but still nice.

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