Rosh Hashanah, literally translating to “head of the year,” marks the start of the Jewish new year. The two-day festival is a time of serious introspection, personal growth and spiritual rebirth. The Season of Repentance, beginning with Rosh Hashanah, encourages Jewish people to seek forgiveness from those they have wronged over the past year and reflect on what the new year might bring.
Traditionally, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated with special prayer services, including the blowing of the shofar, the traditional ram's horn. Festivities also include eating traditional and symbolic foods such as apples and honey, round challah, and in some communities, fish heads.
On campus, Rosh Hashanah often coincides with the beginning of the academic year, enabling Hillels around the world to create warm, welcoming and reflective Jewish spaces. Below are snapshots from some of their celebrations this year:
A Sweet New Year
Canadian Jewish students spent their Sunday afternoon scouring rows of trees for the crispest apples. The outing was organized by affiliates of Hillel Ontario, including Hillel Ryerson University, Hillel York University, Hillel University of Toronto, Hillel University of Guelph and Hillel McMaster University.
Oars in the Water
After services on the first and second day of Rosh HaShanah, students involved with University of Vermont Hillel observed tashlich, a tradition that permits Jews to symbolically cast away their sins by tossing bread crumbs into a running body of water. Students threw bread while kayaking on Lake Champlain to honor this age-old tradition.
Reverse Tashlich, an initiative of Eckerd College Hillel, encourages Jewish students to “reverse” the traditional practice of tashlich by participating in local waterfront cleanups. More than 10 Hillels across the nation participated in the program, including University of Iowa Hillel and University of Rochester Hillel.
A Time for Prayer
To ensure Jewish students with varying backgrounds had a meaningful High Holiday experience, Elon University Hillel organized pluralistic services for Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Orthodox and non-denominational students. Some chanted Torah and led prayers.
Hit the Books
Jewish students who wanted to engage in communal introspection this High Holiday season joined a book club organized by Columbia/Barnard Hillel. Participants discussed a variety of books, including “My Jewish Year” and “This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation.”