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What Rosh Hashanah looks like at OU

Rosh Hashanah is a holiday that celebrates the start of the Jewish new year. It is meant to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next. The celebration of the new year ends with one of the most important Jewish holy days, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. Traditions vary for both days, as Rosh Hashanah is typically celebrated with food like challah and apples with honey, while Yom Kippur is a solemn holiday meant to atone for individual sins and forgiveness from God. 

Matt Derrenbacher, the student Rabbi at Hillel OU, welcomes the spread of Jewish culture, and seeks to describe both of the holidays in simple terms for non-jews to understand. 

“The timing of Rosh Hashanah which is a celebration, and then Yom Kippur which is an acknowledgement of and taking accountability for sins, seems kind of counterintuitive,” Derrenbacher said. “You’d think the celebration would come after the repentance, right? Well, it’s done intentionally. We start the new year with a celebration to allow for a radical acceptance of the self and set powerful intentions for the year to come. As we take about a week to settle into the acceptance of self and set new intentions for the year to come, we use Yom Kippur as a powerful opportunity to take one last look back, letting go of all the sin, stress, anxiety, and anything that continues to drag us down from the previous year and completely let go. We start with a clean slate every year.” 

Celebrating Rosh Hashanah can be done in different ways for Jewish people, especially students who leave their own community to attend university. Hillel OU provides these students with their own home away from home, and showers them with familiar practices, events and traditions. Specifically for Rosh Hashanah, Hillel OU rents out a room at Baker center and provides Jewish students with a service and a meal.

For Jewish students like Alex Deutchman, a senior studying criminology, participating in Hillel OU events make her feel like part of a community. This year, however, she plans to go home to visit her family during these holy days. Last year looked a little different for Deutchman since Parents Weekend coincided with the holiday. Because of the coordination, her parents came to her to celebrate.

“Last year my parents did Rosh Hashanah here,” Deutchman said. “This year, I have family that lives in Columbus, so we’re gonna go up to Columbus and eat all together.” 

Deutchman recalls her past memories with fondness as well as the traditions she would partake in with her family.

“Every year my parents and I would go to the big temple services, and then afterwards we would go apple picking,” Deutchman said.

Jewish students are welcome to practice with their families or with Hillel OU, but whatever they choose, they know there is always a space for them whenever they choose here at Ohio University. 

Sarah Livingston, the executive director at Hillel OU, wants everyone to know how inclusive and welcome anyone is to join in the festivities. When asked about her feelings about directing Hillel OU, she said she was happy with the space she has helped to provide for Jewish students.

“I owe it to God and our ancestors to give them a welcoming and joyous Jewish foundation for the rest of their lives,” Livingston said. “That’s what we try to do here is to give students a space to lean into Judaism so that their future is that much brighter.” 

Rosh Hashanah may be this week, but Jewish love and traditions extend throughout the year, and everyone is invited to learn, participate, and grow with the Jewish community through it all. 

@1eowynstan

ml858121@ohio.edu


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