As traditionally held each Tuesday, Chabad at Rutgers held another gathering for Jewish youth. This time, however, a new activity took place. In addition to the music, abundant food, and mingling several volunteers participated in preparing treats in honor of Rosh Hashanah. As I saw the bright, red bags piling up on the table I wondered who was going to get these treats? The answer it turned out was patients at the Robin Wood Johnson Hospital – specifically specialized children.
“It’s a heartwarming feeling,” Joselin explained, a member of Chabad, as she finished rapping another ruby bag. “That’s why we do this. I’m really inspired by the Rabbis of Chabad to do good for the community just like them. That’s why I participate.” Currently, Joselin is a Senior at Rutgers University and will graduate very soon with a degree in Information Technology. I watched as she collaborated with her peers to efficiently package more treats so that no child would be forgotten. The students plan to distribute the Rosh Hashanah treats this Friday.
What I found most interesting about this table, putting aside the collaboration between volunteers, was the fact that it was held in the main dining area. In this way, attendees of the party could see the example of volunteerism. Even better, anyone could walk up and lend a helping hand. The environment was perfect for stepping up and becoming a leader in the Jewish community.
So then, with this in mind, what exactly was inside the bags? Apples and honey. Seems strange, no? Not exactly. It’s a Jewish tradition on Rosh Hashanah to eat both apples and honey. Such a fruit is very sweet, and honey makes it even sweeter, so it symbolizes how we hope that G-d will grant us a sweet new year. After all, according to the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah is the start of the New Year. If you were wondering, Rosh Hashanah literally means “Beginning of the Year.” More specifically, the term “Rosh” means head.
Besides eating apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah, it is also customary for the Jewish people to blow on the Shofar during this festival. The sound of the shofar reminisces the trumpets blown when crowning a new king, and on Rosh Hashana we reaffirm G-d as our king. The Shofar also reminds us to repent from sins of the past year.
All of these practices and more can be enjoyed by anyone attending Chabad House this New Year, especially for those looking for a Jewish community on campus. Additionally, anyone is free to join the volunteers this upcoming Friday to distribute the treats to children at the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. Of course, there will be plenty of other service opportunities offered by Chabad throughout the school year as well.
For more information visit us on the web at chabadrutgers.com, chabadnj.org or call 732-296-1800