200 Days in the Life of the College

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Blessings, friends, food  and a chance to  take your shoes off

By Lauren Magaziner ’12

For Hamilton’s Hillel, sundown on the Day of Atonement signals the start of a semester’s worth of lessons in Yiddish:

Kvetch: A complainer (e.g., I know you’re hungry, but don’t be such a kvetch!). At tonight’s Yom Kippur table, it’s not hard to tell that everyone has been fasting. Conversation centers around how easy (or difficult) the fasting has been and how hungry everyone is. As soon as the meal is laid out, people reach for their bagels and butter. Blessings are recited and the bagels are devoured in silence. When the group lingers, the evening becomes more social, making it a great way to meet new friends.

Shvitsn: Sweating (e.g., I danced so much that I was shvitsn!). Hillel hosts its inaugural Bar Mitzvah Late Nite in early December, and it is a huge success. Unlike a typical Jewish bat or bar mitzvah, there is no guest of honor, and no one is hoisted on a chair (a bad idea, in any case, for college students on a Friday evening). But the energy is fantastic and it feels like a typical bar mitzvah. Music and classic bar mitzvah games make it a perfect throwback to childhood. Jews and non-Jews dance the night away in the Fillius Events Barn, and when attendees cast off shoes to slide around in socks, it makes for pure bar mitzvah spirit.


Nosh: To snack (e.g., If you don’t stop noshing on the latkes, you’re going to burst!). There’s nothing like the smell of greasy, oily fried potatoes, and the Azel Backus House in mid-December provides just that. With stacks of fried-potato latkes on the table, gelt and dreidels on the floor, and streamers dangling from above, the house is festive. It all makes the annual Chanukah party Hillel’s most popular event each year.