As Rosh Hashanah approaches, many Jewish students realize how far they are from their families, but they are able to celebrate the Jewish New Year with a figurative family here at the College. On September 24 and 25, Hillel, Bowdoin’s Jewish student organization, hosted its annual Rosh Hashanah service and dinner.

Over 60 students of different faiths participated in Hillel’s Rosh Hashanah events last year. A comparable number of students attended the service and dinner this year. 

According to Leah Kahn ’15, the president of Hillel, around 10 percent of the Bowdoin student body identifies as Jewish. About 160 students are involved in Hillel. 

“We really work to get the Jewish community on campus,” said Kahn. “It’s the first time for many people to be away from family. And these holidays are really family-centric. We want to make it accessible for students to experience their High Holiday services in a similar way to how they did at home.”

Rosh Hashanah starts at sunset and lasts two days. Hillel observes it with services, a dinner and a luncheon for students, faculty and local residents. 

“We have special foods that are traditional for the Rosh Hashanah meal,” said Rachel Connelly, an economics professor. “There are apples and honey, pomegranates and traditional bread.” 

“Bowdoin does a pretty good job,” said Jared Feldman ’16, who identifies as Jewish and spent the holiday with his family before coming to Bowdoin. “People all come out for this event. This is the closest I can get to a family.” 

As the only Jewish community in Brunswick, Hillel frequently hosts Shabbat services on Friday nights. It also sponsors High Holidays celebrations and lectures by distinguished speakers. 

“One thing I think is great about the Jewish community at Bowdoin and Hillel as an organization is that people who are Jewish and who are non-Jewish are coming together,” said Emily Weinberger ’15. “So it’s a nice way to share cultures and traditions.”  

Many faculty members and administrators attend Rosh Hashanah services and other events hosted by Hillel, including President Barry Mills, math professor Jennifer Taback in the mathematics department and Marilyn Reizbaum, a professor in both the English and gay and lesbian studies departments.

Though this is Hillel’s first major service and dinner of the year, the group already celebrated a big milestone earlier in September when a second Torah was dedicated to Bowdoin’s Jewish community. 

“It is a big year for Bowdoin Hillel,” said Kahn. “The Torah is a holy handwritten manuscript of the Bible in Hebrew. It is very holy, very sacred. We are not even a synagogue. Now we have two Torahs. It’s special because we can have one [open to] the end [of the text] and one starting from the beginning. Within the Jewish community it’s something we boast: how many Torahs do you have?”