Celebrate with a New Community
Generally, our kids get to come home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but for those who celebrate the upcoming Jewish High Holidays, it may be your first one without your students at your holiday table. While it may feel strange having that empty seat, it can feel better to know that they are celebrating the holidays with a new community of their peers. There are options for Jewish students at UCF. You may want to let them know they exist and then hope that they will choose to participate.
Not all colleges give days off for every holiday and it doesn’t look like UCF is any different. Students can certainly inform their professors, in advance, of their absence for the holiday, but chances are class will go on and they will be responsible for any work. If a student has an exam on the date of a Jewish holiday, they can send a letter to the professor asking for it to be excused. The rabbi will write a letter for you but you have to ask for it ahead of time. Even if they do get a day or two off, it is not always enough time to travel back home. This is another reason it is nice to know that there is a place for students to go even if just for a festive meal. There are services too; there are even sukkahs on Sukkot.
Yom Kippur, the holiday when people can repent for their sins and fast can be difficult at school, particularly since it falls right in the middle of a busy week this year. However, depending on your family beliefs, sticking to family tradition is possible.
The Jewish Community
Students can enjoy and celebrate the holidays with their on-campus community. The UCF Hillel, right across from campus, offers holiday programming like break-the-fast dinner for Yom Kippur and learning about good deeds in the Sukkah. The Hillel also has weekly activities for Jewish students; a favorite being Shabbat dinner followed by Friday evening services.
The Chabad at UCF offers much of the same options as the Hillel. Their services are a little longer, but I hear the chicken is a little tastier. Either way, it is good to know there is a welcoming Jewish community for our students when they have to be away for the holidays where they can indulge in the customary prayers for a “sweet New Year” on the High Holidays and participate in traditions like dipping an apple in honey to symbolize this request for the year to come or breaking the fast with bagels and lox. Some may feel the Chabad is far more religious than they are accustomed to, but students have said that they are welcoming regardless.
The dates for this year’s holidays are:
- Rosh Hashanah- 9/9-9/11
- Yom Kippur- 9/18-9/19
- Sukkot- 9/23-9/25
- Simchat Torah- 9/30-10/2
Send a Care Package
I tried to send a challah, honey, and a few other goodies one year and although UPS in Florida from one city to another is merely overnight, it cost much more to ship than to purchase. There are delivery services that can bring your student a treat of your choice though. Check out our blog on delivery services here. Or consider ordering a prepared care package. Somehow sending a care package as a gentle reminder of the holiday may push them towards the Hillel or Chabad a bit faster.
While in college, it’ll be extremely difficult to follow the fasting rule or go to synagogue at all. However, as they begin their new and independent lives, this too is part of the learning process. Just remember, even if they choose to skip what is the norm for your family while away at school, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are abandoning all that you taught them throughout their childhood.