Every year, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins the High Holy Days of the Jewish calendar. These High Holy Days conclude ten days later with Yom Kippur. This year Yom Kippur began on the evening of Oct. 8 and ended the evening of Oct. 9 at sundown.
Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is a 25 hour period in which Jewish adults over the age of thirteen refrain from eating and drinking. This act of fasting is significant in many different ways.
While there is no synagogue in Statesboro, many Jewish students across campus have found a community through Hillel, an international organization with groups on college and university campuses all over the nation.
Hillel of Georgia Southern hosts events throughout the semester.
“Ours specifically focuses on more cultural celebration,” said junior logistics and supply chain management major and Vice President of Hillel Jacob Shippel, “We’re starting to venture into social aspects as well but in the past we’ve had more religious and culture based events.”
The students involved in Hillel gather to break the fast every year after the 25 hour fasting period ends. Even students who choose not to fast during the day take part in the symbolic breaking of the fast. This year students gathered at Tokyo Japanese Restaurant.
“The point of fasting is that it takes you out of yourself so that you’re aware that you’re hungry but you’re also aware of why you’re fasting,” said Cassandra Hankin, senior history major and secretary of Hillel. “So there’s the symbolism of ‘I need to repent so I refrain from bodily urges in order to do that,’ but then it’s also for you to keep in mind that other people in the world are struggling too and they may be hungry so you should help them in any way that you can.”
Hankin, who has fasted almost every year since she was thirteen, says this is a way of giving “Tzedakah,” which means charity in Hebrew.
Roy Ferderber, junior business marketing major and treasurer of Hillel, was born in Israel. This year he chose not to fast.
“I’m not very religious in the aspect of following God,” said Ferderber. “I believe I’m very religious in the sense of being Jewish culturally. I like the Jewish culture a lot, and I relate with it a lot, and I enjoy the Jewish people.”
Ferder said that one of the biggest events in Jewish history was the Holocaust.
“Having a lot of Holocaust survivors in your family— to me that’s not so much a religious aspect but a Jewish aspect,” Ferderber said. “That’s kind of one of the reasons that I consider myself very Jewish in the cultural aspect. Being together is just important to me.”
Both Hankin and Ferderber said that there were traditional aspects that go along with the religious aspects of the holiday.
“Fasting is more or less tradition at this point, but I do it also because the holiday says you should and out of obligation to my faith,” Hankin said. “I want to be a good Jewish person, and so through that I can fast. I don’t think anyone likes fasting, but I like being able to participate in an extra way.”
Shippel said that even though there is not a synagogue in Statesboro, Hillel at Georgia Southern still finds ways to be involved with other Jewish religious groups.
“We are very close with other religious groups in Savannah,” Shippel said. “There’s actually a decent sized community in SCAD and the Savannah area, so if there needs to be something where we would require a Rabbi, we usually go to Savannah for it.”