Support for Jewish culture

Students from Laurier and UW gather for significant Jewish holidays this September

Photo by Heather Davidson
Photo by Heather Davidson

In one of the most holy times in the calendar for the Jewish population, students at Wilfrid Laurier University are able to find solace in their community.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, took place from Sept. 24-26. Yom Kippur, the day of repentance and atonement accompanied by fasting, is this upcoming Friday.

Daniel Gottfried, head of Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Jewish fraternity for Laurier and the University of Waterloo, said that because of classes this year he couldn’t make it back home to the Greater Toronto Area for Rosh Hashanah.

But with the community surrounding UW and Laurier, he was still able to celebrate.

“I couldn’t make it back home because of class, so I had no choice but to come here. And when I walked in [to the fraternity] I just felt at home and back to when I was a kid.”

Other Jewish students at Laurier and UW who are in similar situations have options for how to spend the holidays.

Gottfried commended the rabbi of Chabad Waterloo Region, Moishy Goldman, for the support he has provided to Jewish students. This year, he put together an event in the Turret for Rosh Hashanah. He is also hosting a large meal before Yom Kippur begins and after the fasting ends, while hosting prayer services and lectures during for students to participate in.

“What I’ve seen is that the rabbi has cradled all of the Jews and told them, ‘I’m here for you’ … It helps you transfer over from being at home to being at Laurier or Waterloo,” Gottfried said. “The rabbi himself is an honourary brother of our fraternity.”

Goldman explained that the shift from celebrating large events such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur at school rather than with family could be “jarring, isolating and depressing.”

“What we try to do is for all of the students that don’t go home have a second home. They are able to come and be part of a community … and to celebrate the holiday together with their family away from home.”

Yom Kippur is a 24-hour fast from Friday evening until Saturday night. It is a time for atonement and repentance where Jewish people ask for “forgiveness and refreshing.”

“After we’ve reflected on our purpose in life on Rosh Hashanah and we have contemplated that, we may find that we have fallen short of [our purpose] for the past year,” Goldman explained. “We may have found that we’ve gotten distracted, we’ve fallen into some kind of temptation that is destructive. And we feel badly about that. We feel like we’ve messed it up, so we believe that there’s always another chance.”

Yom Kippur is also a chance to take an “inventory” of the people who have been hurt over the past year and ask for forgiveness face-to-face.
It’s a “restitution of what you’ve done,” Goldman explained.

“It’s a time to make repairs and put everything back in order, and recalibrating yourself and getting back to your centre, core and vision of life.”

Both Goldman and Gottfried said the Laurier community welcomes the Jewish population and are accepting of their values and practices.

“Laurier’s just an amazing community in general … as a religious minority, we feel it. We really feel it. And my interactions with people of administration … they’re so accommodating and so supportive,” Goldman said.

Leave a Reply