Jewish members of the Georgetown community observed Yom Kippur yesterday through a day of prayer, fasting and solemn reflection.
This year, students noted special significance in the services, held in Gaston Hall, as Rabbi Harold White, the university’s Jewish chaplaincy director and senior Jewish chaplain for over 40 years held Yom Kippur services for what may be the final time at Georgetown. The university announced that [White plans to retire at the end of the spring semester](https://www.thehoya.com/news/rabbi-white-retire-after-40-years-service/), although he will continue to remain involved in different aspects of campus ministry.
Carter Lavin (SFS ’10), a Jewish student, said White has left an indelible mark on him and the community as a whole. Lavin also said the services today were meaningful for him in a different, personal sense.
“This year, I [was able] to echo my freshman year in a very special way that has helped me to start the process of leaving Georgetown. Both this year and my freshman year, I was called to the bema [platform] to carry our Torah, which had survived the Holocaust,” Lavin said. “I’m not sure if Rabbi White meant to do that, but I am profoundly glad that he called me up both times for that honor.”
Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is one of the holiest Jewish holidays. It is a day in which Jews traditionally fast, devote themselves to reflection and ask for forgiveness. At Georgetown, services were held in Gaston Hall and were attended by over 500 people, according to Andrew Levine (COL ’11), co-president of the Georgetown University Jewish Student Association. A breakfast was held in Copley Formal Lounge following the services.
Levine also noted the significance of the day for White and for his contributions to Georgetown.
“At Georgetown, the Jewish life is just linked to Rabbi White in every way over the past 40 years,” Levine said. “His unique ability to be able to relate to people of all different backgrounds has made him an ideal teacher and rabbi at Georgetown. It’s been great to be able to listen to him and work with him, and he’s going to be very, very hard to replace.”
Lavin said he felt that Yom Kippur is a unique and sacred opportunity to connect with his heritage.
“At Georgetown, it is easy to see what being part of the Jesuit, Catholic tradition is about. And I know that while I am welcomed to take part in the general Jesuit community, that I am set apart,” Lavin said. “But Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat services remind me that me being Jewish is not about being disconnected to the general Georgetown identity, but that I am connected to a deep and much older tradition. Yom Kippur is a time for me to reaffirm my faith, fulfill my religious obligations and embrace my identity.”