By Colette Beyer
"Bite this" is not a traditional Rosh Hashanah greeting, but tens of thousands of Jewish college students will be offered this edgy message when they arrive at High Holidays services at Hillels this year. While many Jewish students are dipping apples in honey and engaging in celebratory music and dance, others have decided to infuse the holiday with a more modern flare.
The new Rosh Hashanah slogan comes courtesy of Hillel's Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning, which produced a series of edgy, colorful cards that are being distributed on college campuses across North America this year. The Rosh Hashanah card, featuring a juicy apple, is one of new three cards that aim to go beyond superficial explanations of the High Holidays and help students find new meaning among time-honored traditions. The other cards, which instruct students "Don't Eat This" (a bagel, or anything else, on Yom Kippur) and "Shake This!" (the lulav of Sukkot), will follow in coming weeks.
Campus Hillels are also thinking outside the box when planning High Holiday events. Students at Goucher College will celebrate the Jewish new year with music, dancing and an "Apple Drop." As students at Goucher are literally dropping in to the new year with apples and honey, those who attended Hillel of Montreal's "Jam in to the New Year: Selichot for the Soul" gathered for more traditional activities such as midnight prayer, singing, dancing and great food.
However, not all students will be partying the night away. Students at the University of Oregon Hillel will be engaging in tzedakah by running a High Holiday food drive to help feed the local county's hungry and homeless, while others at the University of Colorado at Boulder continue to question the concept of redemption.
In its first year, "Darth Vader and the High Holidays," a program sponsored by Hillel of Colorado, examined the lure of the evil inclination and the promise of redemption surrounding the holiday season. Phil Weiser, former law clerk to Supreme Court Justices Bryan White and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a law professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Rabbi Shachne Sommers, head rabbi of the Denver Community Kollel, led the session.
Karli Sherwinter, the Jewish student life coordinator at Hillel at the University of Colorado, Boulder, was surprised to find that students were much more interested in the religious issues surrounding redemption rather than Hollywood's take on the issue.
"It was actually interesting because the students wanted to hear more from the rabbi about teshuvah [repentance] and less from the professor about 'Star Wars.' The students enjoyed it," Sherwinter said.
Colette Beyer is a student at Muhlenberg College and an intern in Hillel's communications department.