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Students celebrate Jewish holiday with readings, food

Published: Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Updated: Monday, February 28, 2011 20:02

9/26/06 - One University of Rhode Island student loved this past weekend because it reminded him of the first time he met his girlfriend, while another smiled every time he thought of the leftover home-cooked meals that he brought back to campus after celebrating at home.These two students, along with the rest of the Jewish community at the University of Rhode Island celebrated Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah in different ways on and off campus, each one making memories and experiencing the traditions of their religion.

Amy Olson, executive director of Hillel, the Jewish student organization at URI, said the purpose of Rosh Hashanah is to review one's actions of the past year, to make amends and resolve to be better in the future. The holiday started Friday and lasts 10 days, culminating on Yom Kippur.

Hillel organized a celebration of the holiday for URI students in Atrium 1 in the Memorial Union, where Olson led approximately 20 students in readings from Machzor, a special prayer book for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

"The word 'machzor' comes from the Hebrew word meaning, 'to reveal' or 'to repeat,'" Olson said.

She added, "Traditionally speaking the imagery is that one fate is written down on Rosh Hashanah . [on] whether you shall live or die in the coming year, and we have this 10-day period to go through self-examination and this [fate] is sealed on Yom Kippur."

Senior Alex Hershey, past president of Hillel, spent the holiday on campus with fellow members of Hillel.

He said that the practices during the weekend were "just an opportunity for the community on campus to get together and celebrate the new year."

On Friday, Hillel held a service and dinner, where they served challahs, a traditional Jewish bread, in a symbolically round shape.

"There is a lot of symbolism" in Rosh Hashanah Hershey said. "The shape of the challah represented the circle of life."

Saturday and Sunday, religious services were held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for participating Jewish students.

Hershey, a resident of Pawtucket, had mixed feelings about staying on campus for Rosh Hashanah.

"It's good and bad," he said. "You miss the family and the going home, and the customs and traditions. But it's also nice to come to a new place and be with your friends and the new people that [you meet] and spend time with them in a scenario that you normally would" spend with your family.

Senior Raymond Rodgers IV went home to New Jersey to observe the holiday with his family.

"We're pretty low-key," he said. "My aunt and grandmother came over with some family friends and we had appetizers."

For dinner, Rodgers had chicken soup, which, he said, his family has "no matter what the holiday."

When dessert came, Rodgers enjoyed rugula, traditional Jewish cookies made from a cream cheese dough with sprinkled cinnamon and sugar. He said his mom added a personal touch by adding apricot preserves.

Rodgers said that dinner is typically a two-hour event, but his favorite part comes after the holiday is over.

"My mom always cooks me a lot of leftovers to bring back," he said with a laugh.

Chase Altneu, a sophomore, went to his girlfriend's house in Albany, New York to celebrate the holiday, and also an anniversary.

He said that his first "date" with his now-girlfriend was last year on Rosh Hashanah when they were both on campus.

"It just brings back memories, I guess," he said.

His parents didn't seem to mind that he was at his girlfriend's house, said Altneu.

"They said as long as you were celebrating the holiday in some way, it was all right with them," he said.

He said that they had Friday dinner and then went to the temple for a couple of hours the next morning.

"Within Judaism, there is always the possibility of remaking yourself," Olson said.

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