Elle Newman, a freshman marketing major, at the beach during spring break last year, pre-COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Elle Newman.

By Gabrielle Goldman
For Mitzpeh

Unlike several universities nationwide, this university elected to keep spring break on the calendar this year.

In an email that President Daryll J. Pines sent on Feb. 27 lifting a previous order to sequester in place, he also announced plans to continue to hold a mid-semester recess in order to “provide our community with a mental health break.”

Other Big Ten schools have replaced spring break with days devoted to mental wellness. The Ohio State University, for example, placed two “instructional breaks” in their spring semester calendar “to relieve some stress.” The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor also lists two “well-being breaks” with no classes on their academic calendar. These wellness days are mainly to avoid students traveling during a longer break and returning to campus with COVID-19.

Spring break stereotypically involves a week of beach-going and drinking for college students. This year, plans may look quite different. Some Jewish students at UMD are choosing to stay home, while others will travel or adjust their plans to be COVID-safe.

Freshman marketing major Elle Newman still plans on traveling to Florida with her family — but only because they’re all vaccinated. Newman and her family meet vaccination eligibility requirements as employees of her father, who works as a chiropractor, and feel safe enough to visit Newman’s grandmother and cousins in Boca Raton. 

“I’m excited to have a break from just the chaos of COVID and school,” Newman said. 

She still feels a bit nervous about the trip, since Florida has recently lifted their mask mandate.

Mason Trippe, a senior economics major, will also travel to Florida. He plans to go with his girlfriend to visit her grandparents and said he supports the university’s plan to continue having a spring break. 

“Honestly, just be smart,” he said. “If you’re sick, stay home so it doesn’t spread, but I think we should have [a spring break].”

Other Jewish students are laying low for spring break this year due to the pandemic. Max Garfinkle, a sophomore finance major, plans to return home to New Jersey for the break. He knew “flying wasn’t an option,” so he refrained from making any travel plans in order to remain safe from the virus.

Sophomore community health major Emma Soffler plans to continue her Hillel internship at home in Long Island during spring break. The internship, run through Jewish justice organization Repair the World, centers on providing support to people in the DMV area during the pandemic.

“We FaceTimed and emailed old people, helped set up vaccine appointments for them, called food banks to make sure their information was accurate, we wrote thank you notes to food banks, we packed and delivered TLC kits and Shabbat meals to people with corona, and are working with vaccine and corona task forces,” she said.

Alternatively, some Jewish students who have been home during the semester are looking for a change. Sophia Muroff, a sophomore history major from San Diego who was home due to the pandemic, plans to continue working her job at Panera Bread. But she will also take a road trip to visit friends in the northern Calabasas and University of California, Los Angeles, areas. 

“If you are traveling, get tested before you come back, before you go, all that good stuff and I hope everyone is safe,” she said.

No matter how they spend the time off, many Jewish students at this university support the decision to keep spring break to unwind from the inevitable stress of the pandemic.


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