Daily Egyptian

Despite dorm candle regulations and non-kosher dining halls, SIU’s Jewish students find ways to practice

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Abbey La Tour | @LaTourAbbey

Abbey La Tour | @LaTourAbbey

Abbey La Tour | @LaTourAbbey

By Isabelle Rogers

Victoria Hammond was first introduced into the Jewish faith at a young age when her mother converted to Judaism.

The senior studying geology said her mom started taking her to a temple in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, and she decided to convert too.

Hammond and the rest of the Jewish community are preparing to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the two-day Jewish New Year that begins Wednesday at sundown. On Sept. 29, they will also observe Yom Kippur, which is the “Sabbath of Sabbaths” and the most sacred holiday of the Jewish faith.

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But Hammond said for dorm-dwellers, university regulations can make practicing harder than it is at home.

Though she doesn’t attend temple on a weekly basis during the school year like she does at home, Hammond said she makes an effort to pray every Friday, light Shabbat candles and follow the eating restrictions as specified by the holidays.

Hammond, who now lives off-campus but lived in Neely Hall as an underclassman, said one of the challenges she dealt with was the no-candle rule in the dormitories.

Because lighting the Shabbat candles on Fridays is an important tenet of the Jewish religion, Hammond said she had to buy battery-powered tea lights to take their place after being warned by a resident assistant that the use of candles is prohibited.

“It’s not really like Shabbat candles,” Hammond said. “But it will do when you can’t have flames.”

She said she also struggled with the food in the dining halls because it is not labeled as kosher. Even when she asked if menu listings were acceptable for a kosher diet, she said dining hall workers could only point to a few items.

Though Hammond doesn’t keep kosher year-round, she said some holidays require restrictions like keeping kosher or eating non-leavened foods.

Despite the fact the dining hall doesn’t label their foods according to the Jewish faith, the Chabad of SIU provides services to help make Jewish students’ lives easier, Hammond said.

Many Fridays, the Chabad hosts a Shabbat dinner at Rabbi Mendel Scheiman’s house, according to the community center’s website.

Hammond said the Chabad also provides Passover meal deliveries and provides matzo, which is special unleavened bread, during the holiday.

Beyond providing Shabbat dinners most Fridays, the Chabad has various programs held across campus for SIU’s Jewish community.

Hammond said Jewish students on campus come from all backgrounds.

“We’ve had members that were Native American and Jewish, we’ve had people that were from Israel and Jewish, we’ve had Ashkenazi Jews, we’ve had African Jews, and people from all socioeconomic backgrounds,” Hammond said. “We value their stories and how they practice.”

The Chabad also offers students volunteer opportunities, social events, classes, holiday celebrations and a “home away from home,” according to its website.

“The space they’ve created is very welcoming,” Hammond said. “I love it there, and if I can make it out there, it is always really wonderful.”

One synagogue in Carbondale, Congregation Beth Jacob, also provides services to students in order to help them join the Jewish community and practice the faith, said Sara Faye Marten, who serves on the synagogue’s Board of Trustees.

Congregation Beth Jacob was established in 1945 and provides a “range of worship styles and expressions,” Marten said.

The congregation gives services in both English and Hebrew and keeps a kosher kitchen, and Marten said services are held at 7:30 p.m. every Friday.

Though the synagogue doesn’t provide a full dinner after their Friday services like the Chabad does, Marten said they host community meals on most Jewish holidays. Because they understand students do not always have the resources, Marten said students are not required to bring a dish to the dinners.

Marten said the congregation provides transportation for students to save them the 50 minute walk from campus to the synagogue. She said they want all SIU students to feel welcome, and they need only call the synagogue to set up a ride.

“It’s more homey,” Marten said. “The students are from out of town, are probably missing their family … and sometimes they just feel more comfortable being able to ride in a car with people from our community. I think we’re a pretty warm and welcome community, so [students] feel more at home riding with us.”

Staff writer Isabelle Rogers can be reached at irogers@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter @isabellearogers. 

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