Students should strive to keep the faith on campus

Happy holidays everyone! Confused? If you are, then you most likely are not Jewish. It’s the beginning of the Jewish New Year and the start of the High Holiday season, starting with Rosh Hashana and culminating with Yom Kippur. If you don’t recognize some of those words, don’t worry because Microsoft Word doesn’t either. With many of my Jewish friends ordering baby back ribs and skimping on services, sometimes I wish more of my more reformed counterparts took this time of year a little more seriously.

Rosh Hashana is the celebration of the Jewish New Year on the first day of the Tishrei, or Sept. 5 this year. However, it will not be Sept. 5 next year because the Jewish holidays are based on a lunar calendar. Interestingly enough, Rosh Hashana and the other Jewish holidays will not be this early in the Gregorian calendar again until 2089.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for Jews. It is the Day of Atonement when we gather in synagogues and pray to God to forgive us for our sins and ask for a good fate to be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Part of the ceremonies and rituals of Yom Kippur is that all Jewish men and women, who have had a bar or bat mitzvah, must fast for 25 hours. For many, this is a very arduous task: no food or water for more than a day. In fact, you are not even supposed to shower or put on colognes or perfumes. In addition to that, there are some other weird rules. You are not supposed to wear leather shoes and married couples are not supposed to have what the Torah describes as “relations.”

However, the main ritual is the fast. It is meant to focus your attention to the task of asking for forgiveness for your sins. It becomes easier to fast when you are at synagogue and away from home where you could easily fall victim to those tempting morsels of food.

The problem at college is that it is hard to force yourself to do this. At home, I would always have my mother and father around, so it would be pretty hard to grab a snack.

Many Jews, when they come to college, skip the fasting and the service altogether. With the freedom of college, they no longer feel the need to fulfill certain traditions that are normally carried out back home. Who is going to know if you don’t fast or go to services?

Unfortunately, more and more Jews seem to be falling down this path. Many of my friends who are Jewish cannot even remember how to read Hebrew, let alone consider fasting on Yom Kippur. It seems as though our traditions are now being reserved for the conservative and orthodox.

I consider myself to be one of the more religious members of my peer group here at the University and back home. So, for me, seeing the importance and following through with many of these required traditions has not been a problem. Whether it is keeping kosher or attending synagogue for more than just High Holiday services, I have been raised to keep my faith as an important element of my life. Especially with my father being a relatively loud participant during services, he’s always ingraining the importance of “maintaining the faith” into my brain.

With homework and other activities filling up students’ schedules, it becomes harder and harder to fit the fasting and services into your routine because you busy yourself with other tasks. But it is not impossible. College is all about balancing your time and making a work schedule that fits your life. Make religion part of your life, and incorporate the traditions into your schedule. This is definitely easier said than done, but it has been done. I’m trying to do it right now.

I definitely would not venture to say that students are losing their faith. I have been to the amazing Hillel on campus, and it is clear to me that there still are a good number of Jews “keeping the faith.”

In the end, making some sort of effort is half the battle at college in many areas besides just religion. So, even if you were not raised religiously, I call upon my fellow Jews — and friends of other denominations — to make some sort of sacrifice, whether it’s food-based or otherwise, so that you at least you feel like you are giving something up to secure your fate in the Book of Life this year.

Max is a freshman in DGS. He can be reached at [email protected]