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Photo by Kristina Soetje.

Sukkot in full swing at UMBC

Some students may have noticed a green shelter that was recently erected on the Commons Terrace.

This tent is called a Sukkah and is a pinnacle part of the Jewish holiday, Sukkot. To celebrate, spanning from Oct. 4 to Oct. 13, Hillel, an international organization with a student group on campus, has held many different social events inside of the Sukkah.

On the night of Tuesday, Oct. 10, Hillel continued a yearly tradition in holding a social available to everyone on campus. What differentiates this social from the others that Hillel holds is the invitation of Hillel executive board members. Among the members in attendance was Ben Goldberg, president of the Hillel board. This social was open to everyone on campus, allowing students to meet some of the Hillel officers.

Jeremy Fierstien, the director of the Hillel, campus rabbi and important figure in the Jewish community on campus, was also in attendance at the social. Between greeting newcomers and catching up with familiar faces, he had plenty to say about Sukkot and the importance of the Hillel on campus.

“Rabbis call this holiday a festival and it is basically a season of joy,” said Fierstein.

Sukkot is a holiday that falls after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, the day of repentance. After these two rather serious holidays, Sukkot is a time to relax and celebrate both life and the Jewish tradition.

A large part of Sukkot is gathering in the Sukkah to observe the long holiday. Everything during this holiday, as part of tradition, happens inside the Sukkah. Some of the more observant Jews will do everything, including eating and sleeping, inside the Sukkah for the duration of the holiday.

Because the Sukkah is so important to the holiday, Hillel focuses on holding socials inside the Sukkah for the rest of campus to experience Sukkot. Fierstein puts a large emphasis on “promoting respectful dialogue and experience,” during the duration of not only the holiday, but the whole year.

“The conversation is definitely very stimulating. We had a night where we had dinner and we were talking about everything,” said Reese Beyers, a freshman social work major.

The goal of the Hillel is not solely to promote Judaism across the campus. There is no membership within the Hillel; the group is open to all.

Fierstein said, “We hope to serve campus, not just the Jewish people.”

This is a prime reason why Sukkot, while being an important holiday with the Jewish faith, is also made to be a social event, drawing in people all over campus.

As the holiday comes to a close, those who are involved with Hillel leadership will continue to focus on drawing in more recognition on campus. Last year Hillel engaged approximately 400 people. According to Fierstein, “This year in the first month of programming, over ten programs, we engaged over 250 people.” Well on the way to topping last year’s numbers, the Hillel on UMBC will be looking to have a very big year, and it all starts with Sukkot.