How to Celebrate the High Holidays in College

Part of: Alma’s Guide to the High Holidays

Being away at college can be challenging, especially during the High Holidays. Below, some tips from some of our 2019-2020 Alma College Ambassadors on how they celebrate while away at school:


While this may sound obvious, Hillel always has a bunch of great programming around the High Holidays.

“Our Hillel coordinates with local synagogues so we can go to services and then schmooze with all the little old Jewish ladies!” — Arielle Gordon, Colorado College

“I used to read the Yom Kippur haftorah at my synagogue for five years, so when I got to college I really wanted to continue the tradition of being involved in the service. I asked my Hillel Director if I could read the haftorah for the service and they were so happy that a student participated!” — Rachel Bear, Tulane University

“I go to and plan Conservative High Holiday services for my Hillel, and my Hillel does an awesome conversation around being queer on Yom Kippur.” — Olivia Sher, New York University

Create your own traditions

College is all about creating new memories and meeting new friends — make some new traditions!

“Last year, my friends and I postmate’d like $100 worth of Katz’s Deli to break the fast on Yom Kippur. Imagine like five orders of blintzes, latkes, matzah ball soup, etc.!” — Olivia Sher, New York University

“One of my favorite memories is driving 10 minutes to a state park with my friends from school as well as community members to do taschlich at the lake there. Also, my friends and I will get Mexican food together after the first day of Rosh Hashanah services, not sure how that one started!” — Lilli Sher, Ohio University

“In the lead up to Rosh Hashanah, I try to journal and pray nightly and reflect on this past year. I also tend to get a group together to head down to Pittsburgh to go to a little Jewish deli for matzah ball soup after Yom Kippur.” – Sadie Hilf, Grove City College

“When we were unable to make services, my family would spend Rosh Hashanah reflecting on the past year and making lots of food! We always shared a really thoughtful (and delicious) meal at the end of the night. It would be such a good idea to extend this to your college friends!” — Quinn Wilson, Austin Community College


The wonders of modern technology: You can connect with your family, or find a ride home!

“I ALWAYS FaceTime my family and they pass the phone around the room so everyone gets their chance to say Happy New Year. I get passed around the table with the plate of challah, I swear. My cousin lives in LA, so he gets FaceTimed in, too. They put the phones up to each other so we can say hi, it’s hilarious.” — Abbey Solomon, Drexel University

“My synagogue live-streams their Rosh Hashanah services for any congregants who can’t make it to shul. This year, I’m excited to duck out of Shacharit at my Hillel service to watch my mom chant the second aliyah!” — Victoria Alfred-Levow, Northwestern Univeristy

“People will post in our MSUJews groups and see if anyone needs a ride home for the holidays, so everyone has a chance to see family.” — Caroline Strauss, Michigan State University


Take some time for yourself.

“I generally honor them alone in more symbolic and personal ways. I am not religious, but I like the meaning and morals of Jewish holidays. For Yom Kippur, my tradition has always been to detach as much as I can, and use the day for moral and personal reflection. I try to think of all and any people I may have hurt, and apologize to them if possible. Then, I think of ways I can improve my character and be a better person for next year. A more serious form of New Year’s resolutions, if you will.” — Maya Lyubomirksy, University of California—Irvine

“On Yom Kippur I usually go on a walk by myself right before I break fast. My school is on a lake and has a nice wooded path that runs beside it which is a super nice spot to watch the sun go down and be reflective without expending too much energy.” — Kate Nerone, University of Wisconsin – Madison


Include non-Jews in your celebrations – through food, events, or just letting them know what’s happening.

“I always make a meal for my non-Jewish friends. I don’t have many Jewish friends here in Boston so it’s a great way for me to talk about the culture and also for us to all bond over my personal cultural foods!” — Margot Nockowitz-Mitchell, Tufts University

“Besides going to synagogue, my friend (also Jewish) and I like to find a way to bring our non-Jewish friends in on the holiday fun so we bring them to events thrown by Hillel and Chabad, or we make them food from that holiday. For Rosh Hashanah, we will bring them to an event leading up to the actual holiday — we don’t bring them to services because that is time for us to be reflective. For Yom Kippur, we just talk to them about the holiday and why we do what we do, but since it is a very serious and self-reflective day, we don’t share it with them as much.” — Cali Halperin, The Ohio State University

“My family has never really done a lot of the religious stuff for the High Holidays, but we always make time to really celebrate Rosh Hashanah. When I’m at school, I try to bake things like my mom’s honey cake and also eat apples and honey (a lot of my celebrating is food based, but from a cultural perspective I actually think it makes me feel the most connected to my Jewish heritage). It’s always a little hard since I’m the only Jew in my friend group (and there aren’t a ton of Jews at my school) and it’s always a balance of wanting to be visible as a Jew and also involving my non-Jewish friends in my celebrations — but also not wanting to feel like the token Jew of the group. When I’m away from home I almost feel more obligated to celebrate the holidays because they’re a way of feeling closer to home and closer to a culture that is important to me that I don’t necessarily get casually exposed to that much when I’m at school if I don’t make an effort.” — Phoebe Ellman, Fordham College

“My (non-Jewish) roommates have expressed interest in celebrating Rosh Hashanah in the dorm, so we’re thinking of getting some apples and honey for the dorm. I mentioned that you can really dip *anything* round/circular in honey for Rosh Hashanah, so we’re also planning to buy some weird round foods to dip into honey — like dark chocolate disks! (Oreos would be too sweet in honey anyway.)” — Ariel Finkle, University of Rhode Island

Header image by SAMYii on Unsplash