Students and faculty recognize Jewish High Holidays
This year, Rosh Hashanah falls on Sept. 16 to 18 and Yom Kippur from Sept. 25 to 26
September 13, 2012, 9:41 pm·
In the words of economics professor Rebecca Stein, striking a balance between classes and observance of Jewish holidays is “part of being in America.”
Penn is no exception, where every fall, Jewish students must play catch up if they end up missing any classes.
The University’s policy on secular and religious holidays, which all academic departments adhere to, recognizes holidays that affect large numbers of Penn community members, including the Jewish High Holidays. Among other accommodations for students, examinations and assigned work are not permitted on these days.
For the holidays this year — with Rosh Hashanah coming up on Sept. 16 — Hillel is planning many services, dinners and social events for Jewish students remaining on campus.
College senior and Hillel President Alex Jefferson wants students who stay on campus to have a positive and meaningful experience that encourages them to continue to explore Judaism. “There are a lot of students who are intentionally not going back to their houses to be here to build this community,” he said.
For Rosh Hashanah, services will be held this Sunday night, Monday during the day and evening and Tuesday during the day.
Hillel has also planned events just for freshman to watch football and have Shabbat dinner.
For the community at large, the grand opening of Berkowitz lounge will take place on Sept. 19. Among other events, a New Year’s themed dinner is planned for Sept. 21.
Yom Kippur Across Penn will hold a series of student-led discussion groups across campus. Hillel will also host four gatherings to break the fast.
As a leader, College senior and co-chair of Penn’s Reform Jewish Community Leanne Gale will stay on campus for the High Holidays.
“This year, for the first time Penn’s Reform Jewish Community is experimenting with traditional services led by a rabbi and
student-led services put together entirely by students.”
RJC will be hosting a Rosh Hashanah brunch, a Yom Kippur break-the-fast potluck in Harrison College House and Tashlich, a traditional ceremony to toss pieces of bread into a body of water to symbolize the carrying away of sins.
Others will be celebrating at home with their families and taking advantage of the University’s policy.
Engineering sophomore Shoshana Yaffee is missing some of her classes but said her professors were all very understanding.
In a school-wide email, the Undergraduate Assembly explains students’ rights and responsibilities under Penn’s holiday policy.
“Penn does a great job of allowing students to miss class for any personal religious observations as long as students are responsible and notify the professors,” College junior and UA President Dan Bernick said. “Penn doesn’t pick and choose holidays.”
He added, “The UA understands how difficult it is to balance schoolwork and religious observation, but we continue to advocate for students to make sure that they are able to balance both of those, and we welcome student feedback on that as well.”
Being a religious student, College and Wharton junior and UA Vice President Abe Sutton said professors have been very accommodating in terms of holding alternative lectures or recording them for students who are unable to attend. “Modern technology really increasingly reduces that conflict that we face between class and religious holidays,” he said.
Co-director of the Spanish Language Program Toni Esposito is accommodating for students. “We make sure that when we schedule exams in common classes that exams are not scheduled for [the holidays],” he said.
Stein, who observes Jewish holidays, is canceling three of her lectures this semester. She will hold make-up sessions for two lectures and a teaching assistant will lead the third.
“Any holiday that you can imagine in the world, I’ve had a student who’s observed that holiday and somehow we accommodate everyone,” she said.