Wednesday night marks the beginning of Rosh Hashana, the observance of the Jewish New Year and the beginning of the High Holy Days.
It is a time of reflection and togetherness in the Jewish faith, but that togetherness doesn’t necessarily have to be with family. The Hillel chapter at N.C. State University provides a nurturing faith-based environment for Jewish students at holiday time and throughout the year.
“N.C. State Hillel provides support for their Jewish students through various opportunities,” says Miriam Sichel, Hillel’s campus coordinator at the university. “At the beginning of each semester, we hold a welcome-back brunch for all Jewish students to help establish and re-establish our Jewish student community on campus. We provide Shabbat services and dinner twice a month, led by students to strengthen our students’ spiritual connection.”
And throughout the year the N.C State Hillel chapter offers activities ranging from Birthright trips to Israel to foster connections with Jewish people around the world to social opportunities on campus like movie night and baking night.
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“We offer once-a-month lunches at Talley Student Union to strengthen the students’ sense of Jewish identity on a campus with a very small percentage of Jews, and we attempt to inspire social justice and intellectual growth through our interfaith unity shack, where we build and live in a shack with interfaith groups on the brickyard for five days to raise money for Habitat for Humanity,” Sichel says. “We also utilize our N.C. Hillel Israel Fellow to come lead discussions for our students, helping them connect the current situation in Israel with their Jewish identities.”
Hillel believes it is important to give Jewish students the opportunity to be engaged in their faith at that crucial time in their lives.
“College is a very transitional time for students. It is also a time for exploration and questioning of ‘who am I?’ and a continuation of trying to navigate where they fit in,” Sichel says. “I think being engaged in their faith, meeting a student where they are at in the context of their exploration, is key.”
Perhaps more than anything, Hillel gives Jewish students a sense of belonging.
“It’s important because it gives one a sense of community away from home. Most of our Jewish students in Hillel came from large Jewish communities. They arrive at N.C. State, and they feel like a minority, particularly being in the South. If they are engaged, if Hillel can provide spiritual, intellectual and other program opportunities to strengthen their connection to each other, then we hope they have a community of their own they can rely on and help strengthen their identity during their college years,” Sichel says.
N.C. State’s Hillel chapter does not engage its own rabbi, but the chapter ensures that students have opportunities to attend Raleigh and Cary synagogues, especially during this time of year.
“We never want any student to feel left out or without a sense of community during the High Holidays,” Sichel says. “It can be a lonely time for students who are used to being with their families whether they’ve attended services or not.”
Prayer at Pullen Baptist Church
Pullen Memorial Baptist Church is extending an open invitation to its Service of Contemplative Prayer at 7 p.m. Monday. This special service includes music in the spirit of Taize, prayers, reflections, movement meditations and silence.
Organizers say while contemplation is often associated with silence and stillness, this will be contemplation that involves being present in the world and bringing body, mind, heart and spirit together.
Pullen Memorial Baptist Church is located at 1800 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh.
Five Points Fall Festival
Westminster Presbyterian Church is sponsoring its third annual Five Points Community Fall Festival from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The festival will feature free games and entertainment for kids, music, a bake sale and food trucks.
Proceeds from the festival will sponsor Westminster’s Stop Hunger Now fall project. The church is located at 301 E. Whitaker Mill Road in Raleigh.
Transforming Hope Ministries is selling tickets to its Transform the Night Masquerade Ball through Sept. 30.
Transforming Hope is an organization that strives to educate the public about human trafficking, prevent it in North Carolina and restore those who have been exploited. It was founded in 2010 by Abbi Tenaglia, who believes that freedom, joy and hope can be found through faith.
The Transform the Night Masquerade Ball is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Raleigh Country Club. Tickets can be purchased online at transforminghopeministries.org.
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at 7000 Creedmoor Road in Raleigh will present its monthly coffeehouse from 7-8:30 p.m. Friday. Entertainment this week will be provided by Laura Ridgeway.
Carla Turchetti compiles Faith in Focus each week. Email her with details of upcoming events at email@example.com.