Jewish High Holidays Away from Home
Being a practicing Jew, the High Holidays have always been very important to me. For the first 18 years of my life, I spent this time at home with my family, going to the same synagogue I did since I was a child. However, when Rosh Hashanah rolled around my freshman year of college, I had to make a decision – do I go back home to have that time with my family as I always have, or do I celebrate the days in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people? Taking travel time into account and the short length of the term, I decided that I would take a chance and spend my time at my new residence of Hanover, New Hampshire.
Looking back, I am very happy I decided to take that chance. Services were small but intimate, praying with other practicing Jewish students, the Rabbi, and the Rabbi's family. Down time I would usually spend with my own family and friends was spent getting to know a new family that was extremely welcoming (and new friends as well). The meals that followed were also fantastic, as other students that I recognized from around campus came together to celebrate something we all share in common. Even if those other students didn't practice as strictly as I do on a day to day basis, it was still a nice environment to bond over shared values, identity, and tradition. Not to mention, the food was absolutely amazing. When Yom Kippur rolled around I was equally as eager to celebrate it at Dartmouth. The pre-fast meal was just what I needed to get me through the 25-hour fast that followed, and the post-fast meal of bagels, lox and cream cheese made it all the more worthwhile.
My freshman year experience was good enough to convince me to spend my High Holidays at Dartmouth for the rest of my college experience. That said, it was not without some challenges. At a certain level, I did miss spending that time with my family and friends from back home, my familiar home synagogue with my Rabbi that I've known since I was a child, and just being in a Jewish neighborhood where I knew everyone I was participating in some capacity. Classes and class work also posed a little bit of a challenge since class was never cancelled for these holidays and the work schedule marched on. Yet, I stayed year after year because the community made it worth it, and my professors accommodated as best as they could. Every professor I've had has been exceedingly understanding, excused me from class attendance on those days, and helped me make up the work I missed in whatever capacity they could. With a little bit of an extra time crunch, I always came out of the term just fine. While I will certainly enjoy being home for future High Holidays, I was very happy I got to spend the last four here in Hanover.