Hillel at UGA Celebrates Rosh Hashanah
Red & Black
As people across the world celebrated in their own ways, one room in Athens was filled with the scent of challah bread, cooked apples, brisket with sauteéd vegetables and bustled with students ready to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.
Hillel at the University of Georgia held dinners on Monday and Tuesday in celebration of the Jewish New Year. The doors stayed open throughout the event for anyone to walk through and enjoy the three course meal cooked by members of the Hillel team, Jeremy Lichtig and Ruth Gal Gabriel.
“It warms my heart to see the house like this. To hear people talking, to hear people laughing … this is nice,” said Lichtig, the campus director of Hillel. “It’s much different than last year when we were making to-go meals. You didn’t get to have that interaction.”
Upon walking through the door, attendees were asked to wear a mask and then given the option to write down a value they would like to lead them into the new year. These words were written on index cards and placed on a colorful table that stood at the center of the room.
“You start out the Jewish New Year and then you're working on your relationships with your peers, your community, with God and yourself,” Lichtig said. “It really causes you to reflect and make determinations of how you want your next year to look.”
Just as 6 p.m. rolled around, Lichtig brought attention to the front of the room where a prayer was led over wine and grape juice, challah, apples and honey. Attendees clinked their plasticware, pulled off pieces of challah and spread honey over their apples to signify the sweetness of the year to come.
“To me, Rosh Hashanah means family tradition and a fresh start. I think the fresh part reminds me of apples,” said Rebecca Wilson, an international policy graduate student. “I grew up hearing, ‘This is why we eat apples and honey.’ You hear it year after year, but it actually does bring in a sweet start.”
After the prayers were finished, the three courses began. Attendees were served matzo ball soup, brisket with sauteéd vegetables or quinoa, and then an apple crumble dessert. Some students such as Dror Arussi, a doctorate student studying musical arts, came for dinner on both nights.
Arussi, who is from Israel, said the dinner made him feel less homesick and part of something bigger than himself.
For Sarah Schafer, the chair for the social action committee at Hillel, this year was her first Rosh Hashanah away from home.
“I think the hardest part was not being able to go to services,” Schafer said. “That was the part that was most important that I wasn't able to do, so getting any sense of Jewish community in any regard is kind of nice. It's definitely worth coming.”
As the dinner bells chimed down, some set out on a traditional contemplative journey that is undertaken in the 10 days following Rosh Hashanah and leading to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
“The next 10 days for me, I am just trying to reaffirm my Judaism to myself, figuring out how I want to approach the next year and how I want to look back on the things that I've done by apologizing for them,” Schafer said. “You are also kind of repairing your soul and repairing yourself — being able to start the new year fresh and move past it all.”
See a collection of photos taken at the event HERE.
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