Jewish community celebrates holiday season

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The Chico State Jewish campus organization, Chico Hillel, gathers in Trinity Commons to promote the club. Photo courtesy Chico Hillel

With burritos and water bottles in hand, Chico Hillel embarked to the top of Monkey Face Oct. 9 to celebrate Yom Kippur and fill up on delicious food before having to fast the next day.

Chico Hillel is Chico State’s social club for Jewish students. The club has around 50 members and has been around since before the ’80s.

“On an average, we usually have about 20 students come through every week,” said Jenna Ross, an undeclared junior. “There are a lot of active freshman coming in.”

Yom Kippur takes place 10 days after the Jewish new year.

“It’s the holiest day of the Jewish year,” said Ruth Williams, a senior religious studies major. “Within those 10 days, we should be thinking about all the wrong things we have been doing the past year and how we are going to change them.”

The club celebrated the holiday with a hike, where they prepared to fast, when individuals abstain from eating and drinking for a certain amount of time, and reflected on life.

“This year we did a program with rocks,” Ross said. “You put all your worries into one rock and threw it off Monkey Face. You also thought of one thing that was positive that you wanted to have for the new year.”

Not only do individual students celebrate the holiday together, but they each have their own way of celebrating Yom Kippur.

“(I go to) temple, fast (and watch) a lot of Netflix,” Ross said. “It’s a lot of reflecting. You are supposed to spend the whole day in temple. You’re not supposed to used technology or anything. You don’t do anything except pray.”

Williams, who is usually with family or friends on Yom Kippur, said enjoys having a day to herself before socializing at temple services.

“The day before I like to be alone and reflect and have that time period,” said Williams. “When I’m at temple services, I’m always talking to someone. I can’t really be introspective.”

In addition to Yom Kippur, the club puts on social events, such as brunches for parent’s weekend, and offers up activities like hikes and camping to socialize with other Jewish students.

“We have a lot of socials,” Ross said. “We try to keep it fun, while getting people involved and also explaining to people what different holidays are and different customs.”

Celebrating the Jewish holidays is important to Williams for many reasons, she said. Chico Hillel may be small, but the experiences and benefits taken away from the club are big.

“It’s what makes our identity,” Williams said. “We’re a very old culture and the biggest part of being an American Jew is incorporating it with modern life and making it new and interesting. It’s important because it helps you as a person and wanting to be a better person, reflecting on yourself. It’s a healthy human habit.”

Taylor Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or @TaySinclair17 on Twitter.