High Holidays at Williams from Rabbi Seth Wax, Jewish Chaplain

High Holidays: Meals

In my email dated 8/26/20, I mentioned that for the high holidays, we have contracted with a kosher caterer who will provide high quality boxed meals for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur for students who are living on campus. I’m excited to share that we’re offering the following!

  1. Rosh HaShanah dinner, which will include a challah roll; entree choice of grilled chicken with apple & plum compote or a vegan ratatouille stuffed eggplant; rice with caramelized onions, carrots, and raisins; Moroccan tzimmes; a small bottle of grape juice, and dessert.
  2. Rosh HaShanah lunch, which will include a challah roll, a sandwich choice of smoked turkey, falafel, or tuna; potato chips; a pickle; dessert, and a small bottle of grape juice.
  3. Yom Kippur Break Fast, which will include a bagel, lox, cream cheese, noodle kugel, fruit, fresh vegetables and hummus, and a cookie.

Orders can be placed by accessing this order form. Rosh HaShanah meals must must must be submitted (that’s not a typo…it’s a hard deadline) by Tuesday, Sept 8. Yom Kippur break fast meals must be ordered by Friday, Sept 18. After your order is placed, you will receive an email with instructions for pick up. Please note that on the order form, you will be asked to input your student ID number, as each meal box will be debited to your meal plan.

While we cannot gather as a big group at the JRC or the Faculty House for dinner, you can (and should!) get together for outdoor, socially distanced meals, whether or not you get a kosher holiday meal box. Students are invited to gather at 6:00pm on both evenings of Rosh HaShanah (Friday, Sept 18 and Saturday Sept 19) at 6:00pm for dinner outside the JRC, but also feel free to gather with friends or with your pod, too.

High Holidays: Services

Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur services this year will be held online, with some activities taking place in person, outdoors, and socially distanced. Attached to this email you can find a schedule. Please download it and pop it somewhere you’ll see it, either on your desktop or print it out, so you know what’s going on! Whether you are on campus or off, I hope you’ll join us at some point during holidays.

Mackenzie and Noah, WCJA’s religious directors, have been working hard throughout the summer to plan uplifting and engaging services and programs. I hope you’ll join in! There will be opportunities to participate by reading parts in English and Hebrew, and to join in fun and thought-provoking activities, too!

Evening services on both days of Rosh HaShanah will begin at 7:30pm and in the morning at 10:00am. We’ll be using Mishkan HaNefesh, the high holiday prayerbook of the Reform movement, for all evening services during the holidays. For the morning services, we will use Lev Shalem, the high holiday prayerbook of the Conservative movement. All prayer materials will be screen shared, so you will not need to have a physical prayerbook to participate in services. But if you would like to borrow a book, please email me, and we will make arrangements for you to get one.

Rosh HaShanah services (evening and morning) will be held at this zoom address.
To join this service see Rabbi Seth Wax’s email to Jewish students dated 8/26/20.

For the first evening of Rosh HaShanah, Friday, September 18 at 6:00pm, I hope you’ll be able to join an outdoor socially distanced dinner (with your holiday meal box or food from the dining halls) outside the JRC, weather permitting. In case of rain, you can meet other students at the zoom link during dinner time to connect. Services will begin on zoom at 7:30pm on zoom at the address above.

For the first day of Rosh HaShanah, Saturday, September 19, we’ll begin on zoom at 10:00am with meditation, Shacharit (the morning service), and a creative learning program about the Torah reading. We’ll take a break from 11:15am-12:30pm (which is a good time to pick up brunch!) and resume with the Musaf service on zoom from 12:30-1:30pm.

Saturday evening, you’re all invited to gather in front of the JRC for an outdoor, socially distanced dinner at 6:00pm, with evening services beginning at 7:30pm on zoom.

For the second day of Rosh HaShanah, Sunday, September 20, we’ll also begin on zoom at 10:00am with meditation, Shacharit (the morning service), and a creative learning opportunity about the Torah reading. We’ll then take a break from 11:15am-12:30pm (which is still a good time to pick up brunch!) and then resume with the Musaf service from 12:30-1:30pm.

Then, at 2:00pm, we’ll do an outdoor, socially distanced, in-person shofar blowing. Listening to shofar is one of the sweetest and most central parts of Rosh HaShanah, and I’m excited that we’ll be able to do it together, in person, and safely. Our shofar blowers will blow shofar from different spots on campus, starting at the JRC at 2:00pm, followed by outside Paresky at 2:15pm, and finishing up from the top of Thompson Memorial Chapel (while we’ll be outside on the ground) at 2:30pm. Feel free to join the shofar blowers at each building so you hear all the blasts, or meet us at just one location.

From Thompson Chapel, at 2:45pm we will break into groups of no more than 15 and walk over to Linear Park for Tashlich, where we will symbolically cast away our sins by tossing bread into the Green River.

In addition to these Williams-led services, we’ll get to enjoy the offerings by students from Williams, Middlebury, Swarthmore, and Macalester Colleges, who are working on creative programs. Those are still under development, and we’ll have more info on them in the coming weeks.

I’ll have more detailed info about Yom Kippur in the coming days, but you can check out the attached schedule for the basic info.


Thanks so much for reading all the way to the end. So much about this year is different, and I’m grateful to be able to spend the holidays with you all. According to the Jewish mystics, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are about a cosmic return to the great Source, in which we, and all of reality, reconnect with who we are at our most essential and real. It’s a big task, and everything about the high holiday season, from blowing the shofar, to the prayers, to enjoying a meal together, to throwing bread into the water, is designed to help us make that connection. However you do that this year, I hope you’ll rediscover and reconnect with your truest self and enter into the new year with a sense of renewal and authenticity.

-Rabbi Seth

Rabbi Seth Wax
Jewish Chaplain
Williams College
39 Chapin Hall Drive, Room 205
Williamstown, MA 01267

Please note: I do not read or respond to emails on Shabbat (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) or on Jewish holidays.