Jewish students celebrate the new year

BY JUSTIN MILLER AND LEAH GUTTMAN
Daily Staff Reporters
Published September 15, 2004

Rosh Hashanah, which begins a 10 day period of repentance known
as the Days of Awe and the Jewish New Year, started at sundown
yesterday and will end at sundown today.

“Rosh Hashanah is a festive day, yet it does not resemble
the celebration of the secular New Year,” said Rabbi Jason
Miller, assistant director of the Hillel Foundation. “Rather,
Jews spend much of the holiday in synagogue praying and seeking
atonement of their misdeeds from the past year.”

It is a time when families gather around the dinner table to
eat, sing songs and celebrate the new year. For a month before the
holiday, a shofar, a musical ram’s horn, is blown from the
synagogue once a day to alert Jews of the coming Days of Awe.
 It is blown 100 times a day on the holiday.

Some Jewish students will have their classes cancelled. Unlike
other University classes, no Judaic Studies classes will be held
during Rosh Hashanah as professors teaching those classes and most
of their students will be observing the holiday themselves. For
other University courses, students who choose to miss class must
provide advanced notice of their absence and make up missing
work.

LSA sophomore Rachel Perlin said she was “just going to
(Wednesday) evening services, not Thursday services because
it’s the second week of school.”

Some students would like the University to officially observe
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which would result in the
cancellation of all classes.

“I think it’s unfair for any important holiday to
have classes or work on it,” LSA Sophomore Katy Willens said.
“If any religion has a day of rest, it should be
honored.”

But LSA junior David Morley thinks that is impractical.

“It’s OK for the University to hold classes because
it would be impossible to observe every religious holiday. However,
there should be an understanding of what Rosh Hashanah is. It
should be up to the professors whether or not to hold classes, but
they should not be able to have exams,” Morley said.

The debate over classes centers around Rosh Hashanah and Yom
Kippur being the two most holy Jewish holidays.

While the concept of original sin does not exist in Judaism, sin
is hardly absent from the religion. Sin is accumulated over the
course of the year and is wiped clean one week after Rosh Hashanah,
during Yom Kippur, or the “Day of Atonement.”

“There are two ways to repent: one is for sins committed
between human beings. In order to repent you have to ask that
specific person for forgiveness,” Miller said. “For
sins against God you must ask forgiveness from God.”

In some Jewish families, asking for forgiveness has been a
tradition passed on from parent to child.

“My dad started a tradition of telling family members and
friends he’s sorry for doing something that hurt them,”
said Emma Levine, an LSA sophomore. “Recently, on Yom Kippur,
I’ve also started telling people close and important to me
that I’m sorry for anything hurtful I’ve said or done
in the past year.”

Choosing to attend services is just another act of balancing
religion and school for many Jewish students.

“It’s good to continue traditions in college and
it’s important to develop your own stance on how you feel
about your religion,” said Perlin.

But Miller recognizes that forming a unique outlook is not the
easiest thing for students to do.

“It’s a very difficult time for college students,
facing decisions of whether or not to go home to their
parents’ house or congregation or stay in Ann Arbor,”
he said. “When students go off to college, they, through
self-discovery, tend to explore different options. The student that
grew up very observant and decides that they’re no longer in
their parents’ house, they’re going to become less
observant. The flip side is true as well.