Reflections on Jewish High Holidays

Members of the GW Jewish community shared their thoughts and good wishes on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

September 19, 2023

Shana Tovah

Last weekend, many marked the start of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and now look toward the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur (starting next Sunday night).  During this important period of time on the Jewish calendar, we asked members of the GW Jewish community to reflect on their personal hopes and intentions in the year to come. Here is what they shared, in their own words:

Julie and Chris Caputo with their two children

Julie Caputo

Wife of GW Men's Basketball Coach Chris Caputo

"As we begin another Jewish New Year, I always like to reflect on the previous one, which happened to be our first at GW. We feel so grateful to be part of this wonderful community and have enjoyed getting to know so many new faces around Foggy Bottom. My hope for this year is that we all practice empathy, kindness, inclusion and continue to strive for a more peaceful world. Our family wishes everyone health, happiness, prosperity and a sweet new year."

Rabbi Dan Epstein

Rabbi Dan Epstein
Senior Jewish Educator
GW Hillel

"My hope for the Jewish New Year in this season of renewal for all students graduate and undergraduate Jewish and non-Jewish at GW is for the students to give themselves time.

Give yourself time to fail, give yourself time to make friends, give yourself time to find your place and give yourself time to find yourself. Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year, is a holiday that celebrates time as something holy and sacred, it's about contemplating how you will use your time and have used it. 

Shannah TovaOO Metukah-Have a good and sweet year to everyone at GW!"

Michael Feuer

Dean Michael Feuer
Graduate School of Education and Human Development

"In this season of renewal, I add my voice to the multitudes in Israel striving to reinforce the democratic foundations of the Jewish State and thank them for shining a light unto other nations where the specter of autocracy threatens our most cherished values. Let us approach our challenges this year with courage, commit ourselves to rebuilding frayed coalitions, and never become complacent against the forces that seek to distract us from our shared pursuit of justice and freedom. May it be a year of peace and good health for all."

Tamar Guggenheim

Tamar Guggenheim
School of Media and Public Affairs

"My favorite part of the Jewish holidays is the quality time I get to spend with friends and family. This year, I hope to take these values and incorporate them into my daily routine. It is easy to get wrapped up in classes, work, etc., but it is just as important to prioritize the relationships in your life. My hope for this upcoming year is to strengthen my relationships and possibly make new ones, too!"

Logan Kalish

Logan Kalish
GW Engineering

"As we celebrate this new year, I think about how important it is to me as I progress through college to continue learning about myself and also work on stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things and new experiences. I take this time to also reflect on my Jewish identity and how it grows with me and adapts to my changing life, but Judaism is always a constant that I can rely on. The Hillel is deeming this year the Year of the Box and I like to think that my box is always expanding and learning, and that it’s important to step out of my box to try new things."

Candace Kaplan

Candace Kaplan
B.A. '70
Founder and Senior Partner
Kaplan Financial Group

"We are in this together, and we will continue to thrive. We just have to head into this season of change with gratitude for the past, patience for the present, and hope for the future."

Sabrina Soffer

Sabrina Soffer
Junior, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
Vice President of Chabad GW

"Jewish civilization has long thrived on faith, community and inquiry, fostering a plethora of deep and even mystical interpretations. In the Hebrew year 5784, gematria, or numerical allusions, reveal a year of “power and potential,” coinciding with GW’s commitment to being “Revolutionary."

The holiest days of the Hebrew calendar celebrate another year of an unconquerable Jewish spirit. From Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, I invite us all to reflect on our past year and commit to repair and renewal in the year ahead. The sound of the shofar prompts Teshuva, or repentance, also translating to “return” or “answer” in Hebrew. This call opens an opportunity for introspection and rededication to the elements of Revolutionary character we seek as individuals and as a collective GW community."

Rabbi Levi Shemtov
(Photo: Eli Greengart)

Rabbi Levi Shemtov
Founder, Chabad GW

Executive Vice President
American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad)

"During the Jewish High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah is a time to focus on our renewed acceptance of G-d’s sovereignty over the world. Yom Kippur is a time of reflection about our relationship regarding that commitment. Contrary to the widely held notion, Yom Kippur is not a day of personal flagellation for our shortcomings. Rather, it is a time for energetic propulsion in a positive and corrective spiritual direction. My hopes and intentions during this special time include helping to refocus Jewish students, faculty and friends toward a more meaningfully rewarding and reinforced Jewish identity, not merely as an effective answer to antisemitism, but as a powerful catalyst to greater spiritual awareness and strength."

Seth Weinshel

Seth Weinshel
Associate Vice President Business Services

"I look forward to the high holidays each year as it is time of celebration, reflection and atonement."