Festivities, activities take place on or near campus to celebrate Jewish holidays

With the high holidays in full swing this September, religious centers on and around the University of Miami campus are welcoming all students and faculty to take part in their Jewish activities and festivities.

Dozens of students are expected to take part in Hillel’s Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, which are unique to the college environment, according to Rabbi Baruch Plotkin.

“We don’t offer traditional services, but rather interactive forums that are discussion-oriented,” Plotkin said.

Services for Rosh Hashanah will take place on Monday and Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. The traditional Tashlich ritual, in which observers cast off their sins by throwing pieces of bread into a body of water, was held by the lake on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Services for Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement — will be held Sept. 25, at 6:30 p.m. and on Sept. 26, at 9:15 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Hillel will host a light meal at 7:46 p.m on Sept. 26 to break the fast observed during the holiday of Yom Kippur.

Students also can observe the holidays at Chabad at University of Miami, which is located across US-1 and within a 15-minute walk from campus. Chabad of Downtown Coral Gables, another off-campus alternative, will also be holding similar programs. Like Hillel, Chabad is a home for every type of Jew; this includes unaffiliated, reformed, conservative and orthodox.

According to the Chabad at Downtown Coral Gables website, the services “…are refreshingly casual and easy to follow. The English-Hebrew annotated prayer book, along with song and commentary, make everyone an active participant.”

The high holidays are a time for students to discover for themselves what these holidays are all about: renewal and starting off a new year, said Plotkin.

“We want to help them formulate for themselves what they want to accomplish during the year,” he said.

Kerri Taylor Arfa, an 18-year-old public relations major, said she was interested in Hillel programs.

“I would love to take part in some of their events,” Arfa said. “I went to a public high school and was never really given the opportunity to get in touch with my Jewish roots.”

In addition to the services, Hillel reaches out to Jewish members in the community with various programs throughout the year.

“Hillel has always been really inclusive, especially during the high holidays,” said Sofia Alcalay, co-chair of Challah for Hunger.

Alcalay raved about Hillel’s day-to-day programs, especially Challah for Hunger. Every Thursday from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Alcalay’s group bakes challah bread and sells it. The profits go to Darfur and the Kosher Food Bank of South Florida.

“It’s a fun way to make challah with friends while helping out within our community and over seas,” Alcalay said.

Hille is also a place where students can tailor their expenses through leadership development, internships and international and national conferences.

“What can we do to help you in your college career? We want to help you do it,” Plotnick said of Hillel’s mission.

Hillel has professional staff helping the students to reach their goals and become greater because of it. This is what Plotnick said Hillel and Judaism are about.

“This place is buzzing with kids,” he said. “We don’t beg people to come here. They want to come here.”

The Hillel Center is located at 1100 Stanford Dr. To take part in the Hillel programs, RSVP at miamihillel.org

Chabad at University of Miami is located at 1251 Hardee Rd. For more information about their programs, visit JewishCanes.com.

Chabad of Downtown Coral Gables is located at 550 Biltmore Way, Suite 103. For more information, visit chabadgables.com.