Lehigh’s Jewish Student Center is located at 216 Summit St. in South Bethlehem. The university does not cancel classes for Jewish holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. (Natalie Morgan/B&W Staff)

Jewish students celebrate fall holidays despite lack of acknowledgement from the university


While the Office of Jewish Student Life, Lehigh Hillel and Lehigh’s Chabad House hosted student programming to mark the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, some students remain disappointed in the university’s lack of observance of the Jewish holidays.

On Rosh Hashanah, which occurred on Sept. 7, both Lehigh Hillel and Chabad provided meals and services for the holiday. Lehigh Hillel’s celebration took place in the University Center while Chabad celebrated at the Chabad House under an outdoor tent. 

Both Lehigh Hillel and Chabad made efforts to drop off meals to students unable to attend the celebrations and observances due to COVID-19. 

Both Hillel and Chabad hosted events to honor Yom Kippur on Sept. 16. 

Rabbi Steve Nathan, director of Jewish Student Life, said it was a scramble to obtain extra space so students could social distance during meals and services after new COVID-19 regulations were implemented on Sept. 2. 

The new regulations dictate that events should only provide food if they take place outside. 

Rabbi Zalman Greenberg and Dit Greenberg, co-directors of Chabad at Lehigh, also hosted services and provided meals for the holiday at their home. 

“We offered services as well as gourmet dinners with brisket,” Dit Greenberg said. “We had a huge number of people come. We had over 200 students the first night and over 100 students the second night.” 

Sophie Kellner, ‘22, attended Chabad both nights of Rosh Hashanah for dinner and services. She said the services were held inside while the food was served outside in tents. 

 She said that the number of COVID-19 cases on campus partially influenced her decision to stay on campus to celebrate rather than go home.  

Although various campus organizations allowed students a variety of means to celebrate the holidays, Kellner said she wishes the university did more to observe Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. 

“It would be nice if we got off of school, but I understand that once you give up that one thing, it’s like, ‘Where do you draw the line?’” Kellner said. “But I think even the least that could be done is professors recognizing that there’s a holiday.” 

Kevin Simons, ‘24, is also unhappy with Lehigh’s lack of recognition of the Jewish holidays. 

“I am very disappointed in Lehigh because I know a significant amount of people have exams during Yom Kippur, which is one of the most important Jewish holidays and is a break-fast,” he said.

Simons is the Jewish leadership director of Alpha Epsilon Pi and said he works to encourage and facilitate Jewish activities and events within and outside of the chapter.

He said Hillel and Chabad have done a good job reaching out to the campus community to celebrate and observe the holidays.

Kellner said she is glad there are still options to celebrate at school. 

“It’s nice that we do have options to celebrate at school, even though the school doesn’t do anything or the professors don’t really make note of anything,” Kellner said. “It’s good that everyone can still come together as a community to celebrate.”

Dit Greenberg said it is a “huge plus” to be able to celebrate in person this year. 

She said that especially after the tough year and a half the community has faced, it was an uplifting experience to gather together and eat, talk, sing and pray.  

Zalman Greenberg agreed with his wife on the sentiment of being back in person. 

“Human beings are social beings,” Zalman Greenberg said. “It’s very critical for students to come together, celebrate together and live together. We are very happy that we have been able to do that in a safe way.”

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