SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chabad house at Syracuse University provided students with a safe way to observe Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is a holiday where Jewish people take a day to atone for their sins. In addition to going to services for a good portion of the day, many Jewish people take part in a fast from sunrise to sundown.
The Chabad house provided students with the opportunity to attend in-person services that were socially-distanced and the opportunity to participate in a break-fast. For the break-fast, students could either stay and eat at the house or take their food to go. SU freshman Sydney Rednik attended the break-fast and said the celebrations this year were different but still enjoyable.
“I signed up for a breakfast here. We came for the shofar blowing, grabbed a to-go bag of bagel, cream cheese and orange juice and were able to break the fast together, which was a different way of celebrating the holiday than I’m used to,” Rednik said.
SU Chabad decided not to hold services over Zoom. For students who wanted to observe with Chabad, the two options were to either attend in person or to observe on their own. For the students who attended in person, the Chabad house put in strict guidelines to keep their students safe. In addition to enforcing social-distancing and mask-wearing, the Chabad house bought a state-of-the-art air purifier to ensure that the air inside the house was safe and properly ventilated. Senior Rabbi of the Chabad House Yaakov Rapoport said none of those changes hindered the Jewish community at SU.
“I can tell you that we have a lot of new people coming. ESF and SU Students and a lot of freshman and juniors and seniors,” Rapoport said.
Though it takes extra effort and money to make celebrating the holidays during a global pandemic safe, Rabbi Rapoport said the Jewish people have been celebrating the holidays during difficult times for centuries.
“It is important for Judaism to live. Because we don’t see it as marking something as an anniversary. We see each Jewish holiday as re-living that very event,” Rapoport said.
The next holiday in the Jewish calendar is Sukkot, which is a much more festive celebration of when the Jewish people wandered the desert. According to Hillel, 18 percent of Syracuse University’s population is Jewish students. With Sukkot just around the corner, perhaps some of the Jewish people at Syracuse will be able to feel more connected thanks to the Chabad house.