On Tuesday, Sept. 7, students gathered together at the Leffell Center for Jewish Life to ring in the new year with a vibrant Rosh Hashanah dinner. With a full menu prepared by Sodexo, students piled their plates with Rosh Hashanah classics such as apples and honey and matzah ball soup. Over dinner, they came together to reconnect in the spirit of the holiday and start to the new Jewish calendar.
Regardless of religious affiliation or denomination of Judaism, Muhlenberg Hillel welcomes students of all backgrounds. This was clear from the impressive 120 person turn out, as well as the successful Shabbat dinner and first-year-student events the week prior. In addition to a provided dinner, the Hillel Executive Board led some traditional prayers before the meal and an optional student-led service after.
The community atmosphere of the night was praised by many. Hillel president Paige Weisburg ‘22 expressed that “this event was so meaningful because it was a time for so many students to experience spending the High Holidays away from home [and] that the strength and love within Muhlenberg Hillel makes it wonderful to gather together and create new traditions.”
As president, Weisburg aims to prioritize gathering feedback from students to foster and encourage inclusion, warmth and openness. She plans to do this by listening and advocating for their needs. “I really want people to feel comfortable talking to me about what they expect and would like to see and I am so excited to meet and get to know all different types of students,” she shared. She also credits the help of her Executive Board in planning the dinner, specifically religious co-chairs Eden Chanko ‘23 and Hadas Seltzer ‘24.
“It was truly magical to see how many students came and from all different years at school,” Chanko notes. “It was so important for Hillel to host an in-person event, especially for such a significant holiday.”
“I really want people to feel comfortable talking to me about what they expect and would like to see and I am so excited to meet and get to know all different types of students”
After carefully planning the event and brainstorming since August, Chanko and Seltzer collaborated with the help of Hillel director Ira Blum ‘10 to make the event a success.
“The holidays are always times where people become very reflective in these moments of consciousness and presence over the past year, especially during the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,” Blum states. “It’s very important to recognize that holidays are not just happy events, but they symbolize being more intentional and committing ourselves to being the best versions of ourselves in the coming year. As director, I see that as our work at Hillel… by being able to meet students wherever they are. We really aim to give them a smiling face and to see all of that in a vibrant and dynamic space like Hillel. We are so grateful for the help from the dining hall and for the delicious goodies and see the kitchen buzzing and students coming out with smiling faces carrying food.”
Other than the dinner, Hillel also organized a variety of events leading up to the holiday including a challah bake and tashlich, an annual tradition based around traveling to a body of water and casting away one’s sins in order to reflect and prepare for the upcoming year.
“It’s very important to recognize that holidays are not just happy events, but they symbolize being more intentional and committing ourselves to being the best versions of ourselves in the coming year. As director, I see that as our work at Hillel… by being able to meet students wherever they are.”
Chanko summarized her thoughts on the week’s events, saying,“[Rosh Hashanah] is typically a holiday that is spent with friends and family in joyful moments and we wanted to create a space where that was possible for all students. The first night of Rosh Hashanah is a wonderful way to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Hillel is proud to be a place where we can create events that allow students to keep their Jewish traditions while also creating an engaging and special experience.”