By Aviva Perlman
Clark University Hillel got in the spirit of Groundhog Day last week by celebrating Yom Hamarmitah, a fictitious holiday designed by Clark Hillel to humorously explain the second month of Adar and how the Jewish calendar works.
Students celebrated Yom Hamarmitah (Groundhog Day) by pulling freshman Phil Bieber, who was dressed up as a groundhog, on a toboggan across the snowy Clark University campus to the main quad. Bieber, who shares a first name with that other famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his own shadow, which meant that a second month of Adar would appear in the Jewish calendar this year. Students passing through the quad had the opportunity to find out more about Adar II and Yom Hamarmitah while enjoying hot chocolate, rugalach and kosher gummy groundhogs.
"There is a relative lull between Channukah and Purim," explained David Coyne, director of Clark University Hillel. "We thought it would be fun to take a secular holiday and do something Jewishly with it."
According to Coyne, the event was a great way to engage Jewish students on campus who might not otherwise be involved in the Jewish community.
"We always make an effort to create programming that is generally seen as silly," he said.
"We heard that this was done a while ago and we're always looking to shake things up a little and grab attention," said junior David Yoselevsky.
Though when Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, it means there will be six more weeks of winter, Clark students did not seem disappointed their Phil saw his shadow.
"People found a new holiday to observe," Yoselevsky joked. "They were excited to get in touch with their Jewish roots."
Yoselevsky hopes that Yom Hamarmitah becomes a Clark Hillel tradition.
"It was a fun opportunity to bring people together, interact with campus and get Hillel's name out there in a light, fun manner," he said.
Coyne went so far as to offer a fictitious history of the holiday. Yom Hamarmitah was an ancient Jewish holy day from the time the Temple still stood. During that time, a few days after Tu B'Shevat, the high priest would go into a field after completing his morning prayers to watch a groundhog stick its head out of its burrow. If the priest observed the groundhog seeing its own shadow, he would announce a second month of Adar, extending the season of winter and delaying the holidays of Purim and Passover. A second Adar falls seven times within every 19 years.
Aviva Perlman is a junior at American University and an intern in the Hillel communications department.