By Sara Cohen
Although sometimes one of the lesser-known holidays, Simchat Torah is a joyous and exciting holiday for Jews. This year, the holiday began on Sunday, October 20 (the 22nd of the Hebrew month Tishrei) and ended Tuesday evening. Simchat Torah celebrates the completion of the year-long cycle of reading the Torah.
The Jewish people have been celebrating Simchat Torah since before the first century BCE. In ancient times, this holiday helped the Jewish people keep track of other holidays. Since the Jewish people have suffered many religious persecutions, it is an important holiday to remember the freedom that there is to continue practicing the faith.
There are many ways to celebrate this important holiday including services, a kiddush (celebratory meal), and dancing. The Jewish organizations at this university provide students with a way to celebrate while being away from home.
Some students have taken advantage of these organizations even while being away from home. Allie Cohen, a junior marketing business major, has found solace in the various Jewish institutions around campus. “Students are able to attend Hillel, Meor or Chabad to feel at home during the holidays,” she said.
Students from any of the three major religious denominations (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox), as well as unaffiliated students, are welcomed by the many Jewish organizations on campus, and they often feel like they have a home no matter how far they are from their families.
UMD Chabad coordinates an annual event where students dance throughout campus during the evening of Simchat Torah. Dancing this year began late Monday night at Denton Hall, stopped at various locations on campus and eventually reached Chabad, where students enjoyed food and even more dancing.
While Jewish students particularly look forward to this each year to let loose and rejoice with their fellow Jews, people of any faith are welcome to take part in this tradition and dance alongside the participants. In the past, students have danced around campus for as long as five hours in order to commemorate the cycle of reading the Torah. This Monday night was no different, as more than 500 students participated in the celebration.
“[Simchat Torah] is one of my favorite memories of being at Maryland and makes me feel like a proud Jewish terp,” said Tamar Wohlberg, a junior business major who has attended the celebration each year.
Shoshana Monson, a sophomore biology major, said she has always been very dedicated to her Judaism and has been able to transfer her traditions from home to the college campus.
“Simchat Torah means a lot to me because it is the one time of the year that we are truly just celebrating the fact that we have a Torah,” Monson said. “At my synagogue at home, we take all of the Torahs out and dance with them and sing. It is such a sight to see Jews of all ages and sizes just dancing with pure happiness because we are able to just be Jewish and read our history.”