The Hillel club at California Lutheran University celebrated the Jewish New Year with Hebrew prayers and traditional foods, such as apple dipped in honey to evoke a sweet new year.
The Hillel club is a student club where students of all faiths and belief systems can learn about Jewish culture and religion. Rosh Hashanah, which is Hebrew for “head of the year”, is a two-day celebration celebrated worldwide.
The Hillel club celebrated the beginning of Rosh Hashanah with food, lit menorahs and Hebrew prayers. Present was also a shofar, a musical horn, traditionally fashioned from the horn a ram.
The Hillel club has 20 active members who meet on a regular basis to have fun and explore Jewish culture and identity. Judaism, the 3000 year old religion, is the conceptual foundation for the club. The meetings are not always religiously themed, but a space where students can get together.
Rebecca Gold, the President of Hillel, says the club does a lot of community activities.
“We like to incorporate some Judaism while keeping it fresh for the community”, Gold said.
Gold, who is from Orange County, was a little bit concerned about the Lutheran part of the university, but said there is a nice and welcoming Jewish community at Cal Lutheran.
“In California, you are a Jew by choice. You get to choose your “Jewishness”, how much you want to practice. It’s more a choice of love here. In Israel, it is part of the deal,” said Belle Michael, the Rabbi at Cal Lutheran.
For Michael, Judaism is a set of lenses to look at life through.
“My understanding of my Judaism is more about celebrating and being grateful for life,” Michael said.
Michael moved to California from Israel in 2007 and says that she is happy we live in a peaceful American society.
“California is very open-minded, very multicultural. Of all the places in America, this is the place to be”, Michael said.
“Shanah Tovah” is the traditional greeting on Rosh Hashanah, which means “A Good Year” in the Hebrew language. Rosh Hashanah is also the first of the “Ten Days of Repentance”, which culminates in Yom Kippur, “The day of Atonement”. This is a period of self-reflection for the Jewish people.
Nicole Spadaro, a member of the Hillel Club said her favorite thing about the club is being with people and making new friends.
“It’s not all about religion, it’s more about just learning and being with people,” Spardaro said.
According to its constitution, the Hillel Club at Cal Lutheran “aims to explore and educate about Jewish culture, spirituality and ethics, while instilling positivity, equality, faith and unity with other religions.”
According Hillel’s website, it is the largest Jewish student organization in the world, with student clubs at more than 550 colleges and universities in the world. Hillel’s vision is to have a world where every student is “inspired to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel.”
Published October 1, 2014