Jewish students balance religion, school activities

by Rebekah Rombom | 10/13/05 5:00am

Dartmouth students lead hectic lives, planning and altering packed schedules on a day-to-day basis. Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday that began Wednesday night and ends at sundown Thursday evening, is making life even more complicated for some students.

One of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur is a chance to reflect and atone for sins during a day-long fast.

But instead of taking time to reflect, many Dartmouth students must attend to their overwhelming schedules on empty stomachs.

"At home it's not really a day where you are productive," Erin Miller '08 said. "Here it's different, because here, for everyone else it's just another day."

Miller, who plans to fast through this evening, is thankful that she only has one hour-long class Thursday.

"I couldn't sit through a 10A and a 2A and try to pay attention while I'm starving," she said.

In addition to class, most students have other commitments to worry about, and these on-campus commitments do not wane during the high holidays.

Dana Silberstein '08, a coxswain on the men's lightweight crew team, was unable to attend the traditional pre-fast dinner at the Roth Center because she was at practice.

"My plan was to get out of practice with enough time to go to Kol Nidre, but I didn't have time, so I'm going to go grab food now," she said long after sunset, the point at which the fast is supposed to begin.

Silberstein will also have to miss services today because she has a full day of class and practice.

"It's sort of a bummer, but that's how it is, modified to Dartmouth," she said.

Some students also lamented missing class or having to sit through it -- an unfamiliar experience for students from predominantly Jewish areas that often cancel classes during the high holidays.

For those who choose to observe the holiday in a traditional manner, there are at least four different available services this morning and evening, and a break-fast dinner at the Roth Center tonight.

Last night's Kol Nidre service in Rollins Chapel was completely full, said Hillel President Libby Sherman '06. Sherman also estimates that about 50 students came to the pre-fast dinner at the Roth Center.

Though the situation is a nuisance for some busy students, others stand by the purifying ritual.

"As uncomfortable as it can sometimes be, I almost feel as if I am cleansing my body by putting nothing into it," Lee Cooper '09 said.

Still, the rugby player said he may sit out at practice for fear of dehydration.

"Not being able to drink water is sometimes a challenge," he said.

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