When I first came to Princeton, I was nervous about how I would be able to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During high school, I had always taken the days off from school and attended services with my family. I loved seeing the community and catching up with my friends at the synagogue. But now I was away from home and didn’t know how things operated at Princeton. Were there services? How would professors feel about my missing their class? Would I know anyone else attending services or would I sit alone?
However, despite my fears, I learned very quickly just how special the high holidays are at Princeton. Our Hillel, the Center For Jewish Life (CJL) offers reform, conservative, and orthodox services for all of the holidays. Through posters and emails, they advertise when and where the services are taking place so that even though I was not well acquainted with the CJL community before the holidays, I was still able to receive the information.
Professors are super accommodating about missing classes for Jewish holidays. I have found that if you talk to them ahead of time and explain when you will be missing, they are more than willing to work with you on assignments or class material. Plus, I’ve also had professors videotape or record their lectures so that I can listen to them after the holiday.
As for being nervous about sitting alone, that certainly didn’t happen. At our services we have a special student section, so that I had an easy time finding and meeting other students. The CJL also hosts special holiday meals, so not only was I provided delicious food, I was able to meet other people observing the holiday too. Additionally, since a good number of other students were not attending classes, I spent my afternoons hanging around the CJL talking with others and making friends.
Yet, I think one of the nicest things about celebrating the holidays at Princeton is that you are able to enjoy and observe them however you wish. For example, if your tradition is to just eat a special meal with friends and family, you can do that. If your tradition is to attend all services, you can do that. If your tradition is to attend some classes and go to services when you can, you can also do that. There is the freedom to do whatever you want, and there is no judgment about how little or how much you want to do.
All in all, the holidays at Princeton are wonderful. I look forward to them every year because, for me, they are a break from crazy school life and provide a chance to connect with the other Jewish students on campus. If you observe these holidays and have any questions, feel free to contact me! I’d be happy to talk more about them with you.