With the sounds of Hebrew prayers reverberating through the air and the taste of a traditional meal on their tongues, UF students celebrated Rosh Hashanah.
The Lubavitch Chabad Jewish Center hosted a service and dinner for about 700 people to start Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish celebration of the New Year, Rabbi Berl Goldman said.
The center expects about 2,000 people to attend over the holiday’s three days.
“What better way to bring in the New Year than to pray as a community all together,” Goldman said.
Chabad had prepared for about 500 people, but halfway through the service had to add more than 100 chairs, which still wasn’t enough, Rabbi Aaron Notik said.
Those who arrived early enough got a seat at one of the many tables that lined the floor, and the rest stood around the perimeter of the room.
“This is a holiday that is typically celebrated with family, so for students who can’t go home, this is their family,” Notik said.
The room was divided by a large screen, with men on one side and women on the other during the service. But as soon as the rabbi said the closing blessing, the screens were pushed aside and everyone ate together.
Attendees ate Challah bread and apples with honey, which symbolize a sweet year, said Nell Sharabani, a 23-year-old UF marketing senior.
“The amount of people here is overwhelming, but I feel so connected even to like people I don’t know here, just because the whole Jewish community here is so welcoming,” Sharabani said.
Rabbi Berl Goldman celebrates with attendees during the Lubavitch Chabad Jewish Student and Community Center’s Rosh Hashanah service Sunday night. The service commemorates the Jewish new year and is delivered in Hebrew.