Being away from home makes celebrating Yom Kippur more difficult

Wednesday is Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday that requires fasting until sundown - at which time you break fast with a large family dinner.

That’s a little difficult to accomplish when you're 417 miles from home and have three classes during the day, including one after 7 p.m.

Celebrating the holidays away from home is inherently difficult. Family, who would normally be celebrating by your side, does not surround you. There’s no home cooked meal. You can’t follow traditions you’ve grown up following, because you’re apart from everyone else.

I have no chance of getting home and then getting back to campus in time to get back into classes and work. UB doesn’t cancel classes for the holiday anymore, so my classes will be held. I have exams coming up and my night class is only once a week – I can’t afford to skip.

So what am I supposed to do?

I was not raised in an overly religious home. Although I went to Hebrew school and had a Bat Mitzvah, religion was never something my parents pushed on me. They wanted me to accept it on my own terms. After my Bat Mitzvah, my parents told me I didn’t have to go to temple anymore, or join any sort of youth group if I didn’t want to.

Of course, they still wanted me to date a NJB – nice Jewish boy – but that’s beside the point.

We celebrated the holidays – Hanukkah, Passover, the High Holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I briefly joined a youth group in my area, but didn’t connect with the other kids my age that seemed passionate about religion. I tried to maintain my Hebrew but by the time I left for school I only remembered my basic prayers.

But at UB, I found myself going to the Chabad House on Friday nights – thanks to Ilana, my freshman-year roommate. I finally made my own amends with the religion I was raised practicing. I felt comfortable there.

I started to make friends with people in the Jewish community. The rabbi’s wife became my confidant. Ilana and the rest of the Chabad regulars became my little Jewish family up in Buffalo.

This is my third year away from home for the holidays but the first year it really feels that way.

Ilana graduated last year, which left me to start going to the Chabad myself. It feels like a piece of me is missing.

Last week, I was on my way to the Chabad from a school event. I hesitated when I turned down North Forest Road and ended up turning around and heading home. It didn’t feel right to be there without her, without all the people I had met over the last two years who had graduated and moved on. I felt lonely. The rain fell melodramatically as I drove back to my apartment.

I will go there at the end of this week. I can’t celebrate on Tuesday because of my class, but I will make it to the Chabad to see whose left.

Celebrating the holidays doesn’t mean you have to be with family. It doesn’t mean you have to be religious or that you have to follow the same traditions you were raised with.

Celebrating the holidays is about being with people you care about and taking the time to appreciate everything around you.

I know who I’m FaceTiming Tuesday night.

Tori Roseman is the senior features editor and can be reached at