Being a new Jew, independent of an observant family or significant other, can make holiday celebrations difficult. This is especially true as a college student. I’m a hundred miles from home–a place that’s already showing signs of impending Christmas decorations. So this Rosh Hashanah, just like the last, I’m left in New York City, scrambling to come up with a plan. For, you know, tonight.
I waited over a month after settling back into life at Fordham to make plans for the holidays, mostly because the idea of having nowhere to go was inherently stressful. It’s enough to be an only child of a single parent, as I am, but being the only somewhat observant Jew around makes holidays a downright chore. I’m Italian, I was raised Catholic–I’m used to Christmas dinners that last for hours with people who watched me grow up. The people that will never let me live down that time I carried toast in my purse to a bridal shower. (Hey, I was thirteen, okay?) To me, the idea of intruding by asking new friends to host me or visiting new synagogues with virtual strangers is not what holidays should be about.
Luckily, there are options. There are plenty of services available in cities across the country, some specially provided for students far from home during the holidays. Take a look at Jewcy’s Guide to Rosh Hashanah 2009 for a few ideas. Also, seek out your school’s Chabad or those of neighboring institutions. As Chabad’s Web site says, “At Chabad, every member of the Jewish people is part of our family, and all are welcomed, regardless of background or level of observance.”
And if you decide to celebrate the Holy Days in your own way, at home (or in your dorm), take a look at this article from Reclaiming Judaism about observing Yom Kippur at home. My Jewish Learning also offers suggestions on how to bring Rosh Hashanah ideals home from the synagogue.
So break out the apples and honey, it’s gonna be a good year no matter what. Shana tova!