Celebrate High Holidays 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 high holidays with a new community of their peers. There are options for Jewish students at USF. 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 USF 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. 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 USF Hillel, which is on campus, offers holiday programming like a Rosh Hashanah Dinner and pre- Yom Kippur dinner 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 the University of South Florida 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 very welcoming regardless. There is no charge but they do appreciate and accept donations. Students will need to RSVP here.
Send a Care Package
The synagogue I belong to sends out care packages to their congregant’s college students if you have provided their name and address. You can send challah, honey, and a few other goodies through UPS in Florida; typically from one city to another is merely overnight. There are delivery services that can bring your student a treat of your choice though. 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.
Happy New Year!
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