GV students celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur with Hillel


Courtesy | GVSU Hillel

Lea Gaetto, Staff Writer

The past two weeks have been full of celebration for the Jewish community. In honor of their religious beliefs, many Lakers who are members of the Grand Valley State University Jewish community have been celebrating their New Year from Sunday, Sept. 25 to Tuesday, Sept. 27, and the Day of Atonement beginning on Tuesday, Oct. 4, and lasting until the following evening. 

A group at GVSU where students have the opportunity to join together and embrace their culture is Hillel. This organization welcomes all Jewish students, bringing them together with events like weekly Shabbat dinners, challah and hamantaschen making, various holiday parties, Jewish learning and Israeli awareness and education.

Hillel holds most of its events at the Kirkhof Center from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. However, during their holiday seasons, the organization expands its typical meeting schedule so all members have the opportunity to celebrate their traditions, even while away from home. 

Senior Eleanor Yerman is beginning her fourth year as a Hillel member and has been on the e-board for two consecutive years. This year, Yerman’s role as Vice President of Educational Programming consists of planning events related to education on their heritage and festivities during the holidays.

Hillel gathered to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, as well as Yom Kippur, the holiest day where a person will atone for their sins as well as complete a twenty-five-hour fast. This ended with a breakfast for the group. 

“(We) meet in a more meaningful way during the holidays and high holidays, which are considered the holiest days during the year,” Yerman said. “Some examples of the high holidays would be Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.” 

Aside from what would occur at usual meetings sophomore student Mandi Fealk, Vice President of Social Programming, said it’s important for the group to talk about holidays and do the traditions associated with them. 

While the days of Rosh Hashanah are full of synagogue gatherings, special prayer services and Torah readings, the Jewish community will soon practice deep repentance. During these times, Yerman and Fealk said how blessed they felt to be a part of a community that understands their Jewish culture and ceremonies. 

“I love having a community to go to and have a place that I feel welcomed on campus,” Fealk said. “I grew up in a very Jewish area, so being Jewish has always been a huge part of my life with my background considered, it is amazing that I get to be a part of this community of the GVSU campus as well.”

Yerman echoed Fealk’s sentiment. 

“I love this group for so many reasons, but the thing I love most is that we can come together as a community and just be Jewish without feeling judged by other people outside of our culture,” Yerman said.

Aside from the traditional celebrations that occur during these weeks, Hillel educates its members by emphasizing the importance of these holidays and why the community continues to follow certain customs. 

“This organization has strengthened my beliefs by knowing I have a community here that I can turn to and be a part of since we have a diverse background and understand the purpose of being Jewish,” Yerman said. “Being a member of a Hillel strengthened my previous beliefs about being Jewish, which is that there is always a community that I belong to and can exist in without judgment from others.”