It is no secret that being Jewish at UNC Charlotte is somewhat of a rarity. The Niner Times has taken note of a few upcoming major Jewish holidays and spoke with Hillel President, Sean Zilberdrut to learn more about the traditions and customs that accompany each holiday.
When asked about Charlotte Hillel, Zilberdrut explained that it is, “essentially a community of Jewish and non-Jewish students who desire to discover their Jewish identity, learn about the culture and religion, support Israel and who want to create bonds that will last with those who share this common interest.”
The “High Holidays” are coming up and Zilberdrut thinks this is the perfect time for students involved in Hillel to explore their Judaism with others.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins this year at sundown on Sept. 4 and ends at sundown on Sept. 6. It is customary to sound the Shofar, a hollowed out ram’s horn that is intended to awaken the listeners from their “slumber” and alert them to the coming judgment. Eating apples dipped in honey is symbolic for having a “sweet new year.”
Charlotte Hillel hosted a cookout this week to celebrate the New Year. You can wish someone a happy new year in Hebrew by saying, “Shana Tova!”
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is considered the holiest day of the year, with the highest synagogue attendance. Yom Kippur begins this year at sundown on Sept. 13 and ends at sundown the following day.
The central themes associated with this holiday are atonement and repentance and are celebrated with a 25 hour period of fasting and intensive prayer. Yom Kippur follows a process called teshuva, meaning “return,” which is a four step ordeal: regret, cessation, confession and resolution.
Charlotte Hillel does not currently have any set plans to celebrate Yom Kippur but has hosted a breakfast in the past after the end of Yom Kippur.
Following Yom Kippur is Sukkot, the Festival of Booths. This week long holiday begins this year at sundown on Sept. 18 and ends at sundown on Sept. 25.
Sukkot is one of the three biblically mandated festivals in which the Hebrews were sent to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On each day, the Four Species, esrog, lulav, hadas and arava, are waved in the synagogue during the recitation of prayers of praise. They are wound together as a symbol of God’s mastery over all creation.
It is a Charlotte Hillel tradition to put up a Sukkah, or a traditional open-roof hut that the Jews used in the desert when escaping their enslavement in Egypt. They assemble the Sukkah, decorate it, and host a pizza night.
“I want for students who come into a large university, such as UNC Charlotte, lacking a sense of community and a home to feel welcome. For Jewish students, their Judaism should not be a feeling of embarrassment or shame; it should be celebrated in their own way,” said Zilberdrut.