Hillel connects students during High Holidays

Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, has arrived for Jewish students on the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus.

Many who are observing the High Holidays are coming together as a community and family at UM’s Hillel. The days of repentance began on Sept. 4 with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and ends at sundown Saturday with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest time of the year.

“This is a time about complete introspection and forces us to do an accounting of our souls and actions from the past year and make amends, repair relationships and enable ourselves to fulfill our true potential,” said Robyn Fisher, the assistant director at Hillel for the past eight years.

Hillel has not only become a home to her, but to many Jewish students who find it a place of comfort.

During the High Holidays, the number of people attending services at Hillel tends to skyrocket, especially the out-of-state students with no family in Miami. This year’s Rosh Hashanah services drew more than 200 guests for services and dinner. The turnout left the Hillel staff excited and anticipating an even greater number for Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown Friday.

“Rosh Hashanah fell during the middle of the week, leaving students with classes they weren’t able to miss or get out of,” Fisher said. “With Kol Nidre for Yom Kippur falling on Friday, students have no excuse of not going to class, so I expect the turnout to be much greater.”

Fisher, who is also studying to be a rabbi, finds joy in expressing and sharing her Jewish knowledge with others. At Rosh Hashanah services, Fisher produced breakout sessions and sermons where she spoke of destiny. This encouraged those who attended to observe their own potential and ability to be true to themselves.

“After one time at Hillel, I’ve grown to love it,” said Emma Drooks, a sophomore who has no family in Miami. “I came to services just to observe the holiday, but I left feeling like I had a new family and home.”

Realizing that she now has a new place to call home on campus, Drooks is happily ready to go back to services this weekend and feels comfortable in doing so.

Kol Nidre services begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Yom Kippur services continue at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, followed by Yizkor and Neilah at 6 p.m. The period is marked by intensive prayer and fasting.

Right after Neilah will be breakfast Oneg. For the first time ever, a small charge of $12 was asked for the Rosh Hashanah dinner to help alleviate the expenses. Fisher said there will be no charge for Yom Kippur’s breakfast meal because staff would like for more people to stay after services.

Junior Cameron Brodeur has learned over the years to appreciate Hillel’s benefits, especially after attending Birthright in Israel through Hillel. Birthright is a free 10-day heritage trip to Israel for Jewish people between the ages of 18 and 26.

“Birthright changed my life, and so did Hillel,” Brodeur said. “They were there for me every step of the way and did everything possible to make sure I could get onto that trip. They are some of the most incredible people I have ever met.”

In addition to High Holiday services, Hillel puts on many other events throughout the year, giving students the ability to be involved with their faith year-round. With volunteer aspects such as Challah for Hunger or its annual fundraiser, Style Mitzvah, students can find something to be involved in or even just make friends by attending Shabbat services and complimentary dinner on Friday nights.

If You Go

What/When: Kol Nidre services will be held 6:30 p.m. Friday. Yom Kippur services will be at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Yizkor and Neilah will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Where: UM Hillel