Students and community members celebrated the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Wednesday night at UT’s Rohr Chabad Jewish Center.
Rabbi Zev Johnson said he expects approximately 400 students to attend sermons, dinners and dances which last late into the night over the next three days in celebration of the year 5772. According to Jewish culture, 5,772 years have passed since the creation of the earth, man and woman. Rosh Hashanah lasts for two days, and the Jewish Sabbath follows. Each night, there is a 30-minute sermon by the rabbi followed by a meal of traditional Jewish foods. Dancing and socializing follows each sermon until celebrators are too tired to rejoice anymore, Johnson said.
Johnson greeted guests as they walked in the door with the phrase, “Shana Tova,” which means “good new year.”
“We say ‘good new year,’ not ‘happy new year’ because we hope to be happy throughout the year, and from goodness, happiness automatically stems,” Johnson said.
According to customs, celebrators snack on apples dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet new year.
Johnson played on this tradition in his sermon in which he spoke of the Apple iPhone.
“Everyone is excited to upgrade to the new Apple iPhone,” he said. “Everyone is striving to upgrade. It’s no coincidence the apple is a symbol of the New Year because we are all looking to upgrade our lives.”
Johnson compared looking for new apps for the phone to looking for new “opps” in life.
“We’re looking for the new year to add more ‘opps,’ opportunities, to upgrade our spirituality,” he said.
Some students embraced the concept of iPhone apps and social media, such as nutrition freshman Haley Hammer, who said she found out about the Rosh Hashanah events through Facebook.
“I’m excited about continuing my Jewish traditions in a new environment with new people,” Hammer said.
Rosh Hashanah participant Ariele Gold said she does not attend UT but wanted to be a part of the holiday ceremonies in support of her beliefs.
“I came here for the good food and good company,” Gold said. “People are really interested in learning about the Jewish spirit.”