Jewish students celebrate Rosh Hashana


Apples and honey are a traditional meal following the fast of Rosh Hashana. illustration by Andrea Nebhut

Jewish students celebrated Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, from sundown last Wednesday to Thursday’s sunset. Judaism follows a lunar calendar, not the traditional Gregorian calendar, so the Jewish new year falls on a different Gregorian day each year; Wednesday marked the beginning of the year 5778 on the Jewish calendar.

Jewish Student Association-Hillel, a student group, is the Trinity branch of Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world.

“Usually for the holiday my family and I attend services, similar to what I do in college,” said Ashley Lachterman, the co-president of Jewish Student Association-Hillel (JSA). “The only difference is I don’t get to go home to a big Jewish meal that my mother cooks for us! I’m lucky to have JSA-Hillel where we have The Matzoh Ball, including dinner as well. It’s just not my mom’s cooking.”

The Matzoh ball as a play on words of a soup of the same name. It’s an off-campus celebration meant to welcome in the new year and celebrate alongside the larger San Antonio Jewish community with food, games and resolutions for the new year.

JSA Trinity’s branch of Hillel, an international student group committed to  the cultivation of Jewish culture among student groups on college campuses.

In honor of Rosh Hashana, students were given the opportunity to go to any synagogue in the area free of charge and JSA-Hillel offered rides to the temple of house.

For Grace Cline, psychology and religion double major and co-president of JSA Jewish holidays have always been a little bit different.

“Interestingly enough, I’m the only one in my family who is Jewish. I converted to Judaism when I was almost 16. However, I am very lucky to be a part of a family that is so open minded and willing to be a part of my Jewish journey,” Cline said.

The community found in the Jewish culture is especially important around major holidays, such as the Days of awe associated with Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. “My favorite part of Rosh Hashana is the community I feel when I’m in services,” said Cline. “I have always lived in an area where Judaism was the minority religion. For example, we don’t typically get off of school or work during our holiest days of the year. For that reason, it sometimes feels strange and isolating being on campus or out in the world when no one knows you’re celebrating a major holiday and it’s nice to be in an environment where everyone else is also celebrating,” Cline said.

Most of the day is supposed to intended to be spent at the synogogue, where the services typically focus on God’s sovereignty. However, a large part of celebrating Rosh Hashana involves celebrating with traditional foods and dishes with friends and family.

“Part of Rosh Hashana is where you dip apples in honey to symbolize a sweet new year and it tastes really good,” said Ruth Lavenda, JSA programming intern.

“I don’t really do it any other time of the year so it’s really great. I also really love bonding with my fellow Jews on such a special time of the year,” Levenda said.

Rosh Hashana is the first day of the 10 Days of Repentance, followed by the Days of Awe, where Jews are supposed to repent on the previous year, which ultimately ends with Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish religion. During these days, Jews think on their sins and repent from the previous year. This Saturday, Sept. 30, JSU will host Break the Fast with Breakfast.

All members are invited to break the Yom Kippur fast on Saturday evening with breakfast foods and to watch “The Breakfast Club.” For more information, contact Grace Cline at [email protected] or contact the Jewish Student Association.