High Holidays at W&L Elizabeth Engel '13
High Holidays at Washington and Lee Hillel were very successful this year! We had Benjamin Ross, a student Rabbi who lives in New York City, join us for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to lead us in services. We began the High Holidays with an Erev Rosh Hashanah dinner in Evans Dining Hall with over eighty people in attendance, followed by an evening service. The next morning we gathered for morning services followed by lunch and a Tashlich service at Woods Creek on campus.
For Kol Nidre, we had a plentiful pre-fast dinner followed by a meaningful service to start Yom Kippur. The service included having a member of the community, Julia Goudimova, play Kol Nidre on cello. The next morning, we continued with services, then later in the afternoon held a Yizkor service, followed by Ne'ilah, Havdalah, and finally the break-the-fast meal. The High Holidays occurred early on in the school year, so we embraced that as a way to get first-year students involved. Before the start of the holidays, we all gathered for casual dinners, held once at Tong, a local Chinese restaurant and once at Salerno's, an Italian establishment. This was a great way to get to know other students, Rabbi Benjamin, and Brett in a more relaxed way while enjoying some delicious food. During the dinners, we also allowed time for students to sign up for parts in the service. Almost every student in attendance at the dinners signed up to participate.
Students and community members participated in services in all sorts of ways. We had ten individuals read from the Torah, and this group included undergraduate and law students, a VMI cadet, and our faculty advisor, Simon Levy. Our Hillel Director, Brett Schwartz, a senior, Max Chapnick and a member of the community, Zachary Dubit blew Shofar, and we had over 30 other people participate in leading prayers and responsive readings throughout the holidays.
Rabbi Benjamin did a great job coordinating and leading services, and his sermons were relevant, informative, and interesting. Everyone, from students to faculty, to community members, seemed to respond well to his leadership. All told, High Holidays went very well this year and we are looking forward to another successful year when we ring in 5774!