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COVID-19 has UF’s Jewish community celebrating Rosh Hashanah a little differently this year.
Hillel, an international Jewish student organization, offers different celebration options to welcome the Jewish new year Friday and Saturday. Hillel is following health and safety guidelines for Rosh Hashanah events as an effort to enjoy the holiday safely as COVID-19 concerns persist.
To provide students and community members with cheer for the start of the Jewish new year, Rabbi Jonah Zinn said Hillel’s UF chapter has adopted three options to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.
“This year, like everything, looks different than previous years. Students have a range of different things and behaviors they are comfortable with, so we’re trying to create sort of a whole menu of opportunities that enables students,” Rabbi Zinn said. “Sort of respective of their comfort level given everything going on to celebrate the new year.”
There will be three services and dinner events Friday night, two morning services with lunch and an alternative nature park service Saturday morning. All events at Hillel require an RSVP, will be held outdoors under an event tent and will have a maximum of 50 participants per service. The Rabbi said adjusting the festivities to coincide with health and safety guidelines is at the forefront of Hillel’s agenda.
“The format of the events themselves is designed to prioritize public safety, which means everything is held outdoors, everything requires a mask, everything has social distancing,” he said.
Hillel is also providing do-it-yourself Rosh Hashanah kits to celebrate the holiday at home. The kits have options to include a kosher full holiday meal, apples and honey, matzo ball soup and candlesticks. Director of Development Jaime Zinn said the kit is available for contactless pick-up or delivery.
“They can make their own kit to help them celebrate their holiday in their dorm or their apartment in Gainesville if they’re not comfortable coming here or if they rather, you know, celebrate with their roommates,” Jaime Zinn said.
Virtual experiences will also be available through Hillel’s website. The online events include streaming options of reformed and conservative movement style services. UF Hillel is a non-profit organization and the events are funded by donations.