Texas universities are no exception when it comes to providing a home away from home for their Jewish students.
Here’s an overview of what some Texas Hillels and Chabads are doing for their Jewish students over the chagim.
Texas A& M
At Chabad of A&M more than 150 Jewish Aggies participated in programming. Aggie Chabad Director Rabbi Yossi Lazaroff said, “Being away from home can be rough, away from family and your favorite holiday treats makes it tougher. This is an age where many are so ‘connected’ on social media yet spending time alone in their dorm rooms.
“Holidays at Chabad are all about the feeling of family. That means you will be greeted with a smile, a hug and a spot for you at the table. That means we will be making sure that if your vegan, gluten-free or allergen needs are met. We take ‘Home away from Home’ slogan seriously.”
With Rosh Hashanah in the rearview mirror, Aggie Chabad will shift its focus toward Yom Kippur and Sukkot. In addition to traditional services, Chabad will host ‘why pray’ workshop alternative with a focus on some of the Yom Kippur key prayers to lend depth and meaning to the service for those uninspired and or unfamiliar with services. There will also be pre-fast and post-fast meals.
For Sukkot, Chabad will host lunch daily in the campus Sukkah for students convenience, right near the Memorial Student Center in the heart of campus.
Risa Bierman, executive director at Hillel at Texas A&M also has extensive programs planned.
“Having around 300-500 Jews on campus it is so important for Hillel to be accessible and available for the students, she said. They have access 24/7 to our building to come in and study, hang out and just schmooze with their friends. Hillel strives to provide programming that helps the students be successful in college and beyond. We enrich the students Jewish identity in many ways. The students lead services every Friday and during some holidays. We offer cooking in the Kitchen classes every other Wednesday and resume and interviewing skills whenever a student needs help. Rabbi Jonathan Siger, provides Jewish learning classes to inform and challenge our students. All in all our aim is to engage with every Jewish student at Texas A&M and make them feel welcome and a part of the community. Hillel held services on erev and both days of Rosh Hashanah.
For Yom Kippur, they will have a pre-fast dinner Tuesday and services Wednesday at 10 a.m. and 6:15 p.m. Sukkot events begin Oct. 14. “We will be having dessert and dinner in the sukkah. Wednesday night a no-bake and take in the sukkah. Friday night we will eat Shabbat dinner in the sukkah.”
Aggie Hillel will update events through social media.
Hillel director Rabbi Heidi Coretz tells the TJP, “ Because we are a small campus in the middle of a vibrant Jewish community, our students actually attend services at the local synagogues, mostly Temple Emanu-El and Shearith Israel. For Sukkot, Hillel at SMU comes to my house for “Sushi in the Sukkah” which is always always a highlight of our year.”
Sushi in the Sukkah is co-sponsored by SMU Jewish Studies and is at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16.
SMU’s Millennial group, WE, will have a WE Sukkot Shabbat in Rabbi Coretz’s sukkah at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 18. WE is for the 21 and older crowd.
Students will head back to the local synagogues for Simchat Torah.
University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas Chabad has events just about every night of the week, and the chagim are no exception. For Yom Kippur, Chabad will hold Kol Nidre services at 7 p..m., Tuesday, Oct. 8. On Wednesday morning services are at 10 a.m., with Mincha/Neilah beginning at 5:30 p.m. followed by a break-the-fast at 7:45 p.m. On Erev Sukkot, Sunday, Oc.t 13, Chabad will host Sushi in the Sukkah.
Dallas native and UT alum Ethan Prescott explained the importance of UT Chabad.
“While at The University of Texas, I always had a place for Shabbat, holidays or just to talk. Rabbi Zev and Ariela always are willing to go the extra mile for their students,” he said.
“This connection and care for the students doesn’t end upon graduation. Zev and Ariela continue to connect with alumni through local programming.
Shortly after Yom Tov ended, Tuesday, Rabbi Zev Johnson told the TJP, “We just finished up one of the most epic of all time Rosh Hashanah’s here at UT.
“We hosted close to 400 students at UT chabad and over 500 students heard the shofar all around campus. Including at AE
Phi, ZBT, Sammy, AEPI and Zeta.
“So many students expressed how happy they were to come celebrate and feel part of our family, whether it was in house or bumping into them at their houses or even in the streets. Moments like these gives me real hope for a very bright Jewish future.”
Maiya Chard-Yaron, executive director of Texas Hillel, tells the TJP that they see about 1,000 students, faculty and staff during the High Holidays.
Each year they serve more than 500 meals including a huge Break-the-Fast.
“We offer a lot of options for students – different types of services, kosher meals, and alternative programs like a social justice discussion. While many students join us for the entirety of the holidays, we also have a lot of students who join us for programs and services while still going to classes in between.”
Chard-Yaron explains that it’s important for Hillel to “meet” students at whatever level of observance they are at.
“We are here to support students in celebrating and marking the holidays in whatever way is comfortable for them. We strive to create a welcoming atmosphere for all those who join us on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, whether they are daily/weekly Hillel-goers, or this is their first time here,” Chard-Yaron said.
Hillel of North Texas
Melissa Duchin, director of Hillels of North Texas which encompasses UTD and UNT, explained that Hillel connects students with local synagogues for services and hosts programs for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur break-the-fast.
On Friday, Sept. 27, Hillel hosted 90 students, alumni, family and friends over UNT Family Weekend for Shabbat services led by students followed by dinner.
Monday, Sept. 30 Hillel hosted 35 students and alumni at University of Texas, Dallas for Rosh Hashanah. “We ate pomegranate seeds, dipped apples in honey, and heard the sound of the shofar from our very talented students,” said Duchin.
Tuesday, Oct. 1 University of North Texas students led an Ask Big Questions discussion on Rosh Hashanah “What will you do better this year?”
Most of Hillels of North Texas events are posted on Facebook at http://facebook.com/hillelutdallas/ and https://www.facebook.com/unthillel/.