By Emily Cole
This Thursday marks the beginning of a new year. No, it is not January 1; it is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Rosh Hashanah, which translates to “head of the year,” takes place on the first of Tishrei each year on the Jewish calendar. However, it changes year-to-year on the Gregorian calendar. This is because the Gregorian calendar is based on the solar cycle and has twelve months, whereas the Hebrew calendar is based on the lunar cycle and has thirteen months. Therefore, while Rosh Hashanah takes place on Sept. 20 this year, it will occur even earlier on Sept. 10 next year.
Even though Hanukkah is the most popular and well known Jewish holiday, that is only because of its juxtaposition to Christmas. It is actually one of the least significant holidays in the Jewish tradition. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement that takes place 10 days later, are the High Holy Days in Judaism and they are considered the most important holidays of the year.
There are also many traditions that come with the holiday. As with most Jewish holidays, certain foods are eaten to signify the holiday. Mikaela Scheff, a senior studying math and computer science, said, “I love apples, honey, my grandmother’s homemade challah, Rosh Hashanah dinner with my family, and eating way too much at breakfast.” (Breakfast marks the end of Yom Kippur, which occurs ten days after Rosh Hashanah.
On Yom Kippur, observers fast for 25 hours and then break the fast with a large and festive meal. Additionally, special round challah is made, often with raisins, to signify the roundness of the year and that goodness and happiness have no end.
Rosh Hashanah, like many holidays, is a time when families get together to cook, eat, and enjoy quality time. “My favorite tradition was eating apples and honey with my family at the dinner table (Since we didn’t usually eat together),” Rachel Losak, a junior studying nutrition and dietetics, said.
Here at Simmons, the Jewish community is thriving and gearing up for the high holidays. This year, Simmons Hillel, the center for Jewish life on campus, will be co-sponsoring a dinner Wednesday night, Sept. 20, with the Hillels at Emerson College and Suffolk University. It will take place at the Bill Bordy Theater on the Emerson Campus at 216 Tremont Street, and many students cannot wait.
“I will be attending the Emerson/Simmons/Suffolk joint Hillel Rosh Hashanah Dinner this year, just like last year at Emerson,” Kyetsie Heller, a sophomore studying special education, said. “I am really excited for it and to meet new people from outside the [COF].”
Simmons Hillel is a part of Hillel Council of New England, an organization that supports local college Hillels, particularly those with small Jewish populations. It helps them to collaborate with each other. This dinner is one of many events that Simmons Hillel co-sponsors with other Hillels, helping Jewish students from all around the city come together.
On campus, Simmons Hillel and the Simmons Jewish community workhard to provide an environment where students of all backgrounds can explore and express their Jewish identities. When asked how Simmons has helped her to do this, Heller explained, “Simmons has really helped me in exploring my Jewish identity, as I have learned so much about some holidays that aren’t necessarily the high holidays and talking about prevalent topics as a Jewish teen with other Jewish teens has really helped me express/explore my Jewish identity.”
Miriam Blue, advisor for Simmons Hillel through the Office of Spiritual Life, adds that Hillel is a place for all students to explore their connection to Judaism. “It’s really important for me and for our student leaders to connect with students one-onone and to meet them where they’re at,” notes Blue. “Our goal is for students to connect to Judaism and explore the tradition, while building community on campus and beyond. The High Holidays are the perfect opportunity to engage new students and reconnect with returning students because of their proximity to the start of the year.”
Simmons Hillel has both religious and cultural events several times a month that are open to all students regardless of background, and has provided information about religious services all around the area for the High Holy Days as well as weekly Shabbat services. Students can find out more information at facebook.com/simmonscollegehillel or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. L’Shana Tova- Happy New Year!