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Jewish Students Celebrate ‘Sweet’ High Holidays on Campus
Jewish New Year, a celebration typically celebrated at home with sweets and family, was an uplifting on-campus experience for Jewish students this year. Syracuse Hillel and Chabad House at Syracuse University celebrated and observed Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot with its students by hosting services, providing students with holiday dinners and supporting them through this unusual and difficult holiday season.
In the past, Hillel has hosted its students in Hendricks Chapel and the Winnick Hillel Center for High Holiday services and dinner. But this year, due to COVID-19, Hillel held services in a tent adjacent to the building, shared virtual resources primarily through Hillel International’s Higher Holidays program and provided meals to-go. The main objective was to ensure the safety of its students, while trying to keep the holiday traditions alive.
For Rosh Hashanah, Hillel organized “High Holiday Meal in a Box” which were distributed to students, free of cost. Students could choose one of two options when selecting a meal box. They could use a regular meal plan swipe to receive a meal box containing grape juice, challah and a traditional holiday dinner. Or, they could choose a second option, which included grape juice, challah and a sweet treat, without using a meal plan swipe.
Chabad House also brought students together for socially distanced services and meals in a tent adjacent to their building. Plexiglass dividers between seats and “grab-and-go” packaged meals helped keep students safe, while providing a space for worship and friendship.
Care packages were a critical part of High Holidays this year for students who wanted to celebrate in their homes or were unable to attend services in-person due to capacity limits.
Syracuse Hillel put together a special High Holiday Care Package for its students this New Year. The package included a custom Hillel tumbler, a stick-on phone wallet, trendy Hillel stickers, apple cider packets, honey and more. Chabad’s baskets included fresh honey cake, crisp apples, pure honey and sweet treats.
Hendricks Chapel supported the care packages at both organizations, recognizing the importance of lifting students’ spirits with these individual gifts.
The High Holidays celebrations continued through the beginning of October with Chabad’s observation of Sukkot. Students and staff constructed the annual Sukkah on the Quad, which serves as a space for Jewish students and also raises awareness about the faith across campus. While in-person religious services were suspended on Oct. 7 due to updated University guidelines, Chabad will continue to support students and provide grab-and-go meals.
“The High Holidays are a time when the Jewish community can gather and rejoice in seeing each other,” says Noah Bonett ’24. “At Hillel, everyone welcomes you with ‘open arms,’ and during the Yom Kippur services, I felt comfortable and right at home with everyone. Syracuse Hillel is a warm, welcoming environment that I look forward to being more involved in.”
At Hillel and Chabad, students can feel right at home. In difficult times like these, the Jewish community at Syracuse University is looking out for one another, lending a helping hand and spreading love and happiness to all.
This story was written by Colby Yablon ’21 and Delaney Van Wey.