Jewish students celebrate the new year

Here is the [Univ. of Michigan] Michigan Daily’s Rosh Hashanah article (please note corrections at bottom of page)

By Justin Miller and Leah Guttman, Daily Staff Reporters

September 16, 2004

Rosh Hashanah, which begins a 10 day period of repentance known as the Days of Awe and the Jewish New Year, started at sundown yesterday and will end at sunup tomorrow.

“Rosh Hashanah is a festive day, yet it does not resemble the celebration of the secular New Year,” said Rabbi Jason Miller, assistant director of the Hillel Foundation. “Rather, Jews spend much of the holiday in synagogue praying and seeking atonement of their misdeeds from the past year.”

It is a time when families gather around the dinner table to eat, sing songs and celebrate the new year. Prior to the holiday, a shofar, a musical ram’s horn, is blown from the synagogue 100 times a day to alert Jews of the coming Days of Awe.

Some Jewish students will have their classes cancelled. Unlike other University classes, no Judaic Studies classes will be held during Rosh Hashanah as professors teaching those classes and most of their students will be observing the holiday themselves. For other University courses, students who choose to miss class must provide advanced notice of their absence and make up missing work.

LSA sophomore Rachel Perlin said she was “just going to (Wednesday) evening services, not Thursday services because it’s the second week of school.”

Some students would like the University to officially observe Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which would result in the cancellation of all classes.

“I think it’s unfair for any important holiday to have classes or work on it,” LSA Sophomore Katy Willens said. “If any religion has a day of rest, it should be honored.”

But LSA junior David Morley thinks that is impractical.

“It’s OK for the University to hold classes because it would be impossible to observe every religious holiday. However, there should be an understanding of what Rosh Hashanah is. It should be up to the professors whether or not to hold classes, but they should not be able to have exams,” Morley said.

The debate over classes centers around Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur being the two most holy Jewish holidays.

While the concept of original sin does not exist in Judaism, sin is hardly absent from the religion. Sin is accumulated over the course of the year and is wiped clean one week after Rosh Hashanah, during Yom Kippur, or the “Day of Atonement.”

“There are two ways to repent: one is for sins committed between human beings. In order to repent you have to ask that specific person for forgiveness,” Miller said. “For sins against God you must ask forgiveness from God.”

In some Jewish families, asking for forgiveness has been a tradition passed on from parent to child.

“My dad started a tradition of telling family members and friends he’s sorry for doing something that hurt them,” said Emma Levine, an LSA sophomore. “Recently, on Yom Kippur, I’ve also started telling people close and important to me that I’m sorry for anything hurtful I’ve said or done in the past year.”

Choosing to attend services is just another act of balancing religion and school for many Jewish students.

“It’s good to continue traditions in college and it’s important to develop your own stance on how you feel about your religion,” said Perlin.

But Miller recognizes that forming a unique outlook is not the easiest thing for students to do.

“It’s a very difficult time for college students, facing decisions of whether or not to go home to their parents’ house or congregation or stay in Ann Arbor,” he said. “When students go off to college, they, through self-discovery, tend to explore different options. The student that grew up very observant and decides that they’re no longer in their parents’ house, they’re going to become less observant. The flip side is true as well.”


Rosh Hashanah began Sept. 15 at sundown, BUT DID NOT END UNTIL FRIDAY EVENING (SEPT 17) AT SUNDOWN.

Prior to the holiday [of Rosh Hashanah], the shofar is blown once a day for a month. On the holiday, the there are 100 blasts of the shofar [or ram’s horn].

Rabbi Jason Miller said that SOME students who grow up in an observant home MAY become less observant with the newfound independence that college life presents them with and the opposite is true as well.”

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |