Students celebrate Rosh Hashanah

Lea Negrin

On Friday, Sept. 11, over twenty students from Hillel-Shalom, Whitman’s Jewish organization, met in the Prentiss Spirituality Room at 5 p.m. to celebrate the Sabbath just as they do every Friday.

After forming a circle and lighting candles, the group began traditional prayers. Students lifted their voices to begin singing the prayers but, instead of flowing together melodiously, a variety of clashing rhythms and melodies swarmed the circle. Through the guidance of Hillel-Shalom’s faculty adviser Sharon Kaufman-Osborn, who raised her voice in song along with the group, the Sabbath observers were able to finish the prayer in harmony and commence with the breaking of the traditional challah bread.

Tomorrow’s Sabbath celebration on Friday, Sept. 18 will be much more festive, for it marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Kaufman-Osborn will be holding a traditional supper at her home for the members of Hillel-Shalom, before moving to the local synagogue in Walla Walla, the Congregation Beth Israel, for opening services.

Rosh Hashanah, celebrated from Sept. 18 to Sept. 20, marks the Jewish new year. It is symbolized through the blowing of the Shofar, or ram’s horn, meant to awaken the religious follower who has metaphorically fallen asleep so that he or she may return to God.

Rosh Hashanah is followed by Yom Kippur, Sept. 27 and Sept. 28. During Yom Kippur, observers of the holiday repent and cleanse themselves through praying, fasting and abstaining from work.

This year there are roughly twenty Whitman participants in the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur celebration, which according to Hillel-Shalom members is a significant amount. In past years, participants numbered roughly five.

“The core of us is strong,” says senior Adam Caniparoli, “but there is no true Jewish community in Walla Walla.”

While the students each show a sense of gratitude towards the faculty members at Whitman, who according senior Danny Kaplan are “totally accommodating,” they long for more communal awareness of the holiday. Students note that the local synagogue is small and brings a Rabbi in just for the holidays. Whitman students or community members such as Whitman professor Amy Blau perform other regular ceremonies.

While Kaufman-Osborn’s Rosh Hashanah celebration is much anticipated by the members of Hillel-Shalom, a desire for community  remains.

“I miss the big dinner at my house,” Caniparoli said.

According to Kaufman-Osborn there are “about 125 people [in] Hillel-Shalom, most of whom are Jewish.” Though only eight percent of Whitman students, this figure shows a sense of identity and interest in the Jewish community.

“It’s important that we come together on the holidays,” said senior Brennan  Jorgensen. “It’s lost at Whitman that religious communities do exist because most people aren’t [religious].”

Tomorrow, observers of Rosh Hashanah will come together and share in the traditional festivities in which Jews have partaken for millennia.