Jewish students to usher in new year at sundown

By Amanda Graf

While most people are waiting a few more months to celebrate the new year, Jewish students on campus are making their resolutions early.

Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year, begins Friday at sundown and ends at sundown on Sunday.

“I relate it to the regular new year in some ways. It’s about trying to make yourself a better person,” said Deborah Shub, sophomore in LAS, while eating dinner at the Hillel Foundation, the Center for Jewish Life on Campus at the University.

Rosh Hashanah is on the first day of Trishi, the seventh month of the lunar calendar, said Melissa Cohen, the Jewish student leadership coordinator at Hillel. It marks the beginning of a time of repentance that culminates 10 days later with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Known as the “Days of Awe,” this is the holiest time in the Jewish calendar.

“We don’t use everyday things. We use the best,” Cohen said, reflecting on the Rosh Hashanah service. The prayers come from the Machzor, a special prayer book. The readings from the Torah have themes of repentance, and the cantor sings melodies that are only used during this time of the year.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

The shofar, a ram’s horn, is blown 100 times between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as a call for people to repent. It is also tradition for Jews to throw the contents of their pockets into running water, a symbol of throwing away their sins.

Jacob Lee, junior in Engineering, uses the time to think about his life and how he relates to others. He said reflection during this time and fasting on Yom Kippur give him a different perspective because they force him to be uncomfortable and really consider how he lives. Acts of repentance are important during these 10 days because it is believed that this is when people are judged, and their fate is written in the book of life, Cohen said.

“Those who have repented and atoned will be granted a sweet and happy year,” she said.

For students who cannot make it home this weekend, Cohen invites them to “make Hillel their home.” Orthodox services will be held at Hillel, located at 405 E. John Street.