Maryland Hillel Director of Engagement & Social Justice Talia Orencel signs students in for the “break the fast” event. David Blumberg/Mitzpeh.

By David Blumberg
For Mitzpeh

Yom Kippur is a time to reflect. It is a time to consider the past year, mistakes we’ve made and our goals for the new year.

But for many Jewish students, there is something else on their minds on Yom Kippur: hunger.

As the sun set Wednesday night, Maryland Hillel held its annual Break Fast New Year’s Party at Landmark Apartments to welcome in the Jewish year 5780.

It was a night of food and conversation amongst old friends and new.

Bagels and a variety of cream cheeses lined the table as students came into the building.

Students hungry from fasting streamed in throughout the night. Hillel Engagement Associate Noa Havivi said the turnout was “exciting” with nearly 150 students anticipated for the event.

Havivi instructed fast-breakers on how to make their own cake pops as a sweet treat to celebrate the new year.

Even though Yom Kippur is often thought of as a somber holiday, Maryland Hillel wanted students to feel that the evening was a celebration.

Hillel’s Birthright IACT Coordiantor Stephanie Bekerman said her goal for the event was “for people to be able to celebrate Yom Kippur…and even if they didn’t fast, feel like they did something for the holiday.”

Building a sense of community was another goal for the organizers of the Break Fast event. Many attendees who knew each other already took the opportunity to catch up.

“We try to offer that opportunity for people to come together with their friends,” Hillel Director of Engagement and Social Justice Talia Orencel said. “Part of what I do at Hillel is try to do programs that foster community. Trying to foster community and get people to connect with each other.”

Bekerman also said she wanted the attendees to “feel [like] a part of the community.”

“Between myself, Noa and Talia, who all work at Hillel, I think we know almost everyone. There’s always some new faces, which is always exciting…but we definitely know a lot of the faces coming through here,” she said.

Hillel had a day full of Yom Kippur services prior to the Break Fast event, so the event served as a welcome respite for many.

“I’ve been up really early because we had to be at services here at Hillel. But I love my job. I love meeting the students,” Orencel said. “It gives me energy. It excites me when I see students I know, especially when I see students I haven’t seen in a long time.”

As the night progressed, a number of people left the event with their stomachs full.

It was finally time for those who organized the Break Fast event to have a moment of reflection.

“My hope, for me personally, is that there’s a bit more kindness in the world,” Orencel said. “I think it’s important that we do our part individually and as a collective community to just be kind to each other, especially in a time when there can be so much hatred.”

As the night drew to a close, Orencel offered her thoughts on what she hopes to see from Hillel in the coming year.

“I hope that we continue to be a space that students feel comfortable to come to and see us as a home away from home while they’re going through their journey at college,” she said.


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