Hopkins Hillel hosted a “Jew Years Carnival,” its annual celebration of the High Holy Days at the Smokler Center for Jewish Life, Harry and Jeanette Weinberg building last Thursday.
In lieu of their annual “Jew Years Party,” the Jew Years Carnival synthesized the celebrations of holidays such as Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement and repentance; Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and Sukkot, a weeklong autumn and harvest festival. The event was hosted by the Hillel Student Board (HSB) and was chiefly organized by junior and HSB Social Chair Estelle Richardson.
Despite having to navigate pandemic restrictions, Richardson emphasized how planning the carnival under these circumstances presented a fun and collaborative challenge for her and the other board members.
“We had to figure out what games would work. I really wanted to make sure it was special so all the people who are now back on campus could come together and have a great time,” she said in an interview with The News-Letter.
Featuring activity booths such as water pong, a water coin drop and a homemade plinko board where players could win various prizes such as stickers, candy and T-shirts, the Jew Years Carnival provided a festive and welcoming atmosphere for attendees. The Smokler Center was decorated in brightly colored streamers and balloons for the occasion and music accompanied the many carnivalgoers’ lively conversations and laughter.
The Jew Years Carnival also provided its attendees with a voucher for free Italian ice or custard at an ice cream truck parked outside the Smokler Center, and offered freshly made popcorn.
Senior Ethan Bernstein, who also serves as HSB’s vice president, stressed how important it was to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines while also planning an event that could encapsulate an appropriately celebratory atmosphere in an interview with The News-Letter.
“Figuring out how we could utilize outdoor space to get food involved, mostly snacking, was definitely an important part of the planning,” he said.
After over a year of restricted pandemic life, filled with necessary distancing that put a pause on everyday activities, the joyous energy of being surrounded by peers and friends was evident at the carnival.
For freshman Sarah Aronson, though her first Hillel “Jew Years” celebration looked a bit different from normal years, the best part of the night was feeling the strength of community that permeated the carnival.
“The people are really nice, and everyone’s here to have a fun time and come together,” Aronson said in an interview with The News-Letter.
The sentiment was echoed by senior and HSB Shabbat and Holiday Chair Alanna Horowitz.
“It’s just nice to see people in the space again, [to] just to hang out and be social,” she said in an interview with The News-Letter. “And it’s good to see a diversity of people in here.”
For senior and HSB Jewish Learning Chair Binyamin Novetsky, seeing high rates of attendance at the carnival, especially among freshmen, was heartening.
“The Jew Year[s] Party is normally, by far, our most attended event of the year,” Novetsky said in an interview with The News-Letter. “The truth is that I think every student group has less attendance than they normally have on this campus right now, and no group on this campus really knows what they’re doing right now because things are so complicated.”
He is hopeful that the return to campus will help organizations build momentum to continue serving future generations of students.
“You know, I’m a senior. I’m not [going to] be here next year, and I just want there to be people who are still involved in this community when I’m not here and I think it looks really good right now.”
Binyamin Novetsky is the Hillel Student Board Jewish Learning Chair and a Senior Staff Writer for The News-Letter. He did not contribute to the writing or editing of this piece.