Breaking Away From Tradition: How SU Students Shed a New Light on Jewish Ideals

Young Jewish students at Syracuse University embrace their cultures in a multitude of ways, including during pre-orientation programs such as “Fresh-Fest” (c) 2016 Alyssa Goldberg

Breaking Tradition
Breaking Away From Tradition

By Emily Adelman SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — College is a vital time for developing connections to beliefs for many young adults. A lot of times, it can be considered a make-or-break time in their religious and cultural times.

In this case, Judaism plays a bigger role. The college years may not be the time young Jews spend lots of time attending services. While they don’t attend services as much, they do embrace their culture and heritage. Just maybe not the ways people expect.

Syracuse University sophomore Adam Unger embraces his Jewish culture wherever and whenever he can.

“I go to Hillel for Shabbat a lot,” he said.

He goes for the dinner usually. And if he gets there a little bit early, he may step into services, but he also may hang outside and play pool.

“I think the cultural aspect of Judaism is more important than the actual religious aspect of Judaism,” Unger explained.

Unger believes that Jewish culture is much more valuable than the actual religion. While he agrees that the religion is a big part, the culture is much harder to break in a person.

“I think the cultural aspect is harder to break than the religious aspect is,” he exclaimed.

Judaism is much more than a religion. It is a community and a place where people go to feel comfortable. For former Syracuse Hillel Vice President Allison Epstein, it is necessary or people to realize that Judaism does not always have to entail the religion. Sometimes it is just hanging out and feeling comfortable with the people around you.

“Most of the time when I am there I am being around Jewish people,” she said. “I am not practicing religion it’s just kind of you know a safe place where I feel comfortable with other people that are like me. You know it’s not to discuss our views on god or heaven or if hell is a real place or anything like that it’s to be around people who are like me.”

Many times, the Jewish faith can be put into a box, like any other religion. Christianity, Islam and any other religion can be placed in a certain narrative. Judaism is not only a religion, but a community, an organization and a family.

A familial aspect is sometimes necessary, especially while in college. It is very easy for someone to break away from their religion due to pressures from peers in college. It is easy to be dismissed based on your religion, race and ethnicity.

While many college Jews can choose whether or not they participate in “traditional” activities, others  embrace the culture. College is a place where students learn and grow. Through that learning, students can embrace their culture in ways that can last a lifetime.