As he prepared for one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, Rabbi Adam Grossman was also worrying about Hurricane Irma’s effects.
The hurricane ripped off solar panels on UF Hillel’s roof. The building also suffered internal leaks in one of the main spaces. There were fire panel and elevator malfunctions. Grossman estimates that UF Hillel will need another six to eight weeks to become fully functional again.
These damages came as UF Hillel was preparing for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Rosh Hashanah began Wednesday evening and ends on Friday.
“With Hurricane Irma and its aftermath, we are fortunate to have Rosh Hashanah begin the new year, which gives us the opportunity to find support, inspiration and healing at a time when probably all are dealing with the high anxiety from what happened before,” Grossman said. “More importantly, we have this opportunity to come together as a community and heal.”
On Wednesday evening, with around 150 people in attendance, almost 3000 ounces of grape juice and 150 apples, Hillel ushered in the holiday.
Grossman built the night around reflection on the state of affairs in the world and within individuals.
“(Rosh Hashanah) allows us to reflect on what’s happened in the past year and to give ourselves an opportunity to just be in the present,” he said. “(It) provides a space for healing, for comfort, and for support through these times.”
For attending students, who ate their buffet-style meal scrunched shoulder-to-shoulder at long, reception-style tables, Hillel provided a service and a home.
“It’s really special to be able to have a Jewish home in the UF community,” said Alyssa Berger, a 23-year-old UF Masters of Public Health student. “A Jewish home away from home.”
At the Lubavitch Chabad Jewish Center, Rabbi Berl Goldman spoke about the value of choices, doing good and happiness to a crowd of about 550. Goldman said Chabad’s Rosh Hashanah celebration is the biggest in the United States.
During the service, Goldman spoke about the biblical Adam and Eve, and how just one decision can change a life.
“May this year be an apple year,” he said.
For Fara Moskowitz, the president of the Chabad student group, the holiday services provide comfort and familiarity.
“It’s a great feeling to know that I have a place to come to that’s similar, or as similar as can be, to, like, my home on Rosh Hashanah,” she said.
She said the new year offers a chance to reflect and connect with others.
“It’s a time to really just make a difference,” the 21-year-old UF family, youth and community sciences senior, said. “Do better than the year before, and make it a better year.”