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Hillel Center brings Yom Kippur services and dinners to students and community

The Reform service Wednesday evening at Helene G. Simon Hillel Center had people from the Jewish community holding their Gates of Prayer books while all singing in Hebrew. 

People wore their nicest dress with kippahs and tallits. You can see people hitting their chest as a sin is said by the Rabbi as a confession of what they did the past Jewish year. 

These people are celebrating the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur begins at sundown during the tenth day of the seventh month, according to the Hebrew calendar.  Jewish people observe the day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer at service. The purpose of the holiday is to self-reflect and for repentance on the past Jewish year and what to do differently for the upcoming year.

Hillel's Israel Program Director Elana Huvard said Yom Kippur is the holiest holiday for Jewish people and is observed after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

“It’s a time to reassess my goals for the year and see if I’m on track with aspects in my life,” Huvard said. ”I’m making sure I am the best person I can be.”

IU Hillel invited around 4,000 Jewish students, non-Jewish students and others in the Jewish community to observe the holy day. 

The Center organized a variety of services and dinners. On the evening before the fast, Hillel provided a dinner then service. The Center provides Conservative, Reform, Min’cha, Yizkor and Ne’illah services on Yom Kippur. The services reflect the variations of Judaism and how students were raised. After the 25-hour fasting period ends, Hillel conducted a dinner Wednesday night called Break the Fast after the Ne’illah service.

Orthodox services are mostly in Hebrew, do not use technology and separate men from women.

In Reform services, more English is used, anyone can lead the service and includes more songs. Although Rabbis are traditionally men, women can lead in Reform services as well. Prayers and rituals performed during the services also vary.

Huvard said depending on a student’s religious level, many students strictly fast and avoid eating or drinking. Prayers and songs during the services are more geared toward reflecting and forgiving sins than typical service.

Senior Ben Axlerod’s experience back home would typically include not attending classes and spending time with his family at service. Since Hillel is on campus, Axlerod is able to come and go from classes to service.

Axlerod usually doesn’t skip classes but does understand the campus recognizes the religious reasons why student would.

“My first year, I was definitely nervous,” Axlerod said. “But I was able to find friends and people I could connect to and provide that community that any incoming student who feels nervous can feel like they are at home.” 

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