Celebrating Rosh Hashanah

Campus thoughts on this year’s celebration of the Jewish holiday

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, which was celebrated from Sept. 6-8 this year. This is an important holiday for the campus and our Jewish students, professors, faculty and staff.

The Jewish community on campus is quite small, but when talking about religion, it is not about the amount of people, but about the power of the amount. We still have an amazing opportunity to connect with each other, respect each other’s traditions and be inclusive when talking about religion.

Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies Adrienne Krone explained some of the ways she personally celebrates Rosh Hashanah.

“I celebrate Rosh Hashanah on campus with students here, although in my childhood we went to the Synagogue with my family and had lunch together,” Krone said. “We also ate apples and honey, which symbolize a sweet new year. We usually bake challah in a long strand, and on Rosh Hashanah, it is a round shape as a symbol of the annual cycle.”

“As a child, we were not very observant, but I attended a Jewish Sunday school,” Professor of Biology Lauren French said. “To celebrate Rosh Hashanah, we had a picnic where we ate apples and honey, talked about the Jewish New Year and wished each other a Happy New Year.”

It is always important to feel like you are a part of a community, and that’s why I am glad that at Allegheny College, you can always find “your” people, especially when talking about religion. Being Jewish, Christian or Muslim, you can feel free to follow your religion`s traditions and connect with people who understand you.

“It’s hard to live in a community where there is such a small Jewish population,” French said. “I try to block off at least one day to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. This year, the services at our temple in Erie were all virtual, so I was extra happy to celebrate it in person here at Allegheny.”

Having your religious community to support you is crucial. I find it extremely hard to follow the traditions and  holidays when there is almost no one to share your feelings and emotions with. That is why we need to appreciate and go for an opportunity to stay connected and close to each other.

Speaking of food, it is important to mention some traditional dishes.

“Apples and honey are specific for the Rosh Hashanah,” Syd Hammerman, ’25, said. “Apples have healing properties and the honey signifies hope for a sweet year.”

“Food depends on family and traditions, but staples for Rosh Hashanah are pomegranates, and apples and honey,” Shula Bronner, ’22, said. “There are Jews from all around the world, so the more specific food we eat varies.”

Food has always been a part of the holidays and what makes Jewish culture special is that each dish has a symbolic meaning. Whatever you eat on Rosh Hashanah symbolizes the goods of the coming new year.

Other major Jewish holidays include Passover and Tu Bishvat.

“I love Passover in the spring because it focuses on the story of when Jews were enslaved in Egypt and then earned their freedom,” Hammerman said. “I also love Tu Bishvat — a whole Jewish holiday dedicated towards trees, nature and what we get from it.”

Have you ever heard of trees as an important symbol in Judaism? Jewish culture considers trees as people created by God and needed to be respected and appreciated. I find it interesting and crucial to treat nature with kindness, as you treat your parents or friends.

Passover is one more important holiday in Judaism, dedicated to the celebration of the freedom of Jews after being enslaved in Egypt. Passover is one of the major holidays in the Jewish culture because what, if not freedom, makes the nation or religious community itself?

“I think learning about religion can help us to learn about culture, society and why people make decisions,” Krone said.

Remember that religion is not only about God. First and foremost, religion is about us, our thoughts and beliefs, our actions or inaction. Treating each other with respect and understanding specific religious holidays is what makes us a community.