Lawrence students celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan

Liz Tubman

This week, people around the world observed and celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan, two holidays with special significance for Jewish and Muslim students on campus. Despite being away from family and friends, students still managed to celebrate and remain true to their faiths during these meaningful times.
The Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah was celebrated on Tuesday, October 4. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. The holiday’s name means “head of the year” in Hebrew. The Jewish calendar begins in autumn and is based on the phases of the moon, unlike the Gregorian calendar, which is used by much of the Western world.
“Rosh Hashanah is a happy time of celebration,” said Claire Weiss, a member of the Jewish student organization Hillel. Rosh Hashanah is part of the “High Holidays,” and is celebrated in conjunction with Yom Kippur on October 13. Yom Kippur, which translates as “Day of Atonement,” is a much more solemn occasion. During this time, people atone for the sins of the past year through fasting.
Rosh Hashanah is an important symbolic tradition in the Jewish faith. Along with Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah is one of the most important holidays of the entire year, analogous with Christmas in terms of importance and significance.
“It’s hard when you’re away from home in a different place,” remarked Weiss. Despite having to celebrate away from the familiarity of home and family, members of Hillel enjoyed the festivities together, attending services in celebration of the new year. Students will also “break the fast” together after Yom Kippur is over. Hillel, which is open to Jews and gentiles alike, often provides opportunities to celebrate Jewish events and activities, with Friday-night meetings to celebrate the Sabbath, rides to local synagogues, and campus programs around Jewish holidays.
October is also a significant time for Muslims, who are observing Ramadan this month. Ramadan is a holy month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims traditionally fast from sunrise to sunset. They try to be more disciplined with themselves during this holy time and are a little stricter with their everyday behavior. Ramadan is considered holy because the Quran is thought to have been revealed by God during this month.
“Life continues as normal,” said student Daniyal Noorani. “It just happens automatically. At home it’s a festive time with a family atmosphere, but it’s harder when you’re away.”
Fasting is a significant aspect of Ramadan and the Islamic faith. As one of the “Five Pillars” of Islam, fasting helps form the basis and foundation of their faith.
“We are willing to give up worldly things like food and water for Allah because he asks,” explains Noorani. “It’s the least we can do for him.”
Ramadan is part of the lunar Islamic calendar, starting between October 4th and 5th and ending on the first moon of the new month. The biggest celebration of all comes at the end of Ramadan, when families and friends join together to break the fast.
Noorani is a member of the Muslim Students Association, also known as SALAM. The main goal of the group is to enlighten other students about the Islamic faith. They hope to address stereotypical views of Muslims in the media and clarify Islam and what it stands for. During this coming year the MSA group at Lawrence hopes to hold regular meetings with question-and-answer sessions and bring in speakers to help clear up misconceptions about the Islamic faith.