Campus Jewish centers welcome all to Yom Kippur services, feast

Beginning at sundown Friday, the campus’s Illini Hillel and Chabad Center for Jewish Life are both expecting a few hundred members of the community to attend celebrations for the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur.

“Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Jewish Calendar,” said Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel, executive director of Chabad. “Its really a day of reflection and looking within oneself.”

During Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, it is tradition to fast for a full day. Fasting this year will begin at sundown Friday and end at sundown Saturday. Many Jewish people also spend the holiday at synagogue at religious services and after sunset, have a “break the fast” feast.

Both the Chabad and Hillel are offering Friday night, Saturday morning and afternoon services as well as a free dinner after sundown to break the fast.

This year, Yom Kippur falls on the weekend, which means that many students may not stay on campus for the holiday.

“A number of students actually will go home to celebrate with their families,” said Carly Froomkin, engagement coordinator at Hillel. “We are expecting much smaller numbers of people coming for services than we have had in the past because of this reason.”

Nonetheless, there will be many students who stay on campus for the holiday.

“Many students aren’t from the Chicagoland area, and they have no way to get home,” Tiechtel said. “Not everybody wants to go home either. A lot of people prefer celebrating Yom Kippur in Champaign rather than at home.”

One does not have to be Jewish to attend religious services or meals at the Chabad or Hillel.

“We welcome everyone,” Froomkin said. “As long as you are respectful, anyone can come and experience the services.”

Tiechtel expressed the same feelings of hospitality. Individuals should RSVP on the Chabad homepage beforehand.

“I want every person who walks into the Chabad to feel like they’re coming back home,” Tiechtel said. “That’s the most important thing to me about observing holidays away from home.”

Although Yom Kippur is considered the most holy day of the year for people of the Jewish faith, not everyone chooses to attend services, and some attend only parts of it.

“We have an important policy — it’s called the ‘come as you’d like’ policy,” Tiechtel said. “One shouldn’t feel that they have to attend the whole length of the service. Someone can come for one minute or for the whole time, either is fine with me.”

Falling closely after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, Yom Kippur is supposed to give those who observe the holiday a chance to look inside themselves and reflect on the past year and the year to come.

“Rosh Hashanah leads the way to Yom Kippur,” said Gila Zimbovsky, director of programming at the Chabad. “There are 10 days between the holidays to think about working on yourself. That’s why it is the ultimate day.”