By: Alicia Garza
Ally Reece is a Jewish senior from Syracuse, New York.
Q: What would you say are the key parts of Judaism?
A: I think it’s all just really important. I don’t care if people keep kosher or don’t keep kosher. Like, I did for five years and that was a personal choice.
Q: What is kosher? What does it mean?
A: It’s like where you don’t mix milk and meat, you don’t eat pork, there’s a lot of things. Shellfish isn’t kosher. As far as meat, it’s how it was killed—there has to be a rabbi present and there’s a whole big thing. It’s a lot of work and kosher meat is expensive.
Q: What are some of the traditions of Judaism that you participate in?
A: When I’m at home for Shabbat on Friday night, I light candles with my family and we pray and everything. And when I’m with my youth group—which is United Synagogue Youth—we don’t use electricity and we pray. On Saturday, pretty much all we do on Saturday is we pray and sleep. Because we can’t write and we can’t use electricity and you can’t drive anywhere.
Q: Why can’t you do those things?
A: Saturdays are our days of rest. It’s kind of like Sundays for people who go to church. It’s just like a hang out and read books with your family kind of day.
Q: How does Judaism tie into your everyday life?
A: Well, It’s not like I pray everyday, I probably should, but I don’t. I’m very aware of how Jewish I am. I like to support Israel in whatever way possible. I’m not like the guys who hand out bibles when you get off the bus at Wescoe, but I’m more than willing to talk to people about my religion.
Q: What would you say are some of your favorite parts about being Jewish?
A: The community. The Jewish community is a big part of my life. My brother is president of [Alpha Epsilon Pi] and I know all the Jewish people over there. I feel like once you’re part of the tribe, everyone knows you’re a part of the tribe. We play Jewish geography—which is where we are like “Oh, you’re Jewish and you’re from ‘this place’? Do you also know ‘this person’ who’s also from ‘that place’?” and chances are you do. When I was at my old school, and I couldn’t go home for a couple of holidays, and my friend’s family was, like, “Oh, you’re absolutely welcome to come over and hang out!” which I think is really nice. I don’t know if it’s the same for every religion, but the Jewish community is very welcoming, which I like.
Q: What are some of the Jewish holidays you like to celebrate most?
A: Hanukkah. It’s in the winter. It’s eight days and you light the Menorah- one candle for every day, even though there’s nine, so you light the middle one and then light the others- and I think that’s just a nice, long family holiday. Passover, I guess, even though you can’t eat bread. It’s when we don’t eat bread because they didn’t have enough time to have the bread leaven or rise. What we eat is Matzah, which is unleavened bread. There wasn’t enough time to let the bread rise, so they ate the non-leavened bread. That’s over the same time as Easter. That’s a good family one, too. The first two nights you have a Sater, and everyone comes together and you pray and you read the story of Passover. It’s just fun, you read the story of Passover. Rosh Hashanah is a good one—which is New Year. I spend all day in temple. Yom Kippur, which is the end of that week and it’s a fasting holiday. And you clean your slate the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and it’s where you like make all your amends for the last year and then by fasting, you’re cleaning everything from your body. You start over with the new year.
Q: What do you want the University to know about your religion?
A: That we’re a really welcoming community. When I got here, everyone was like “So nice to meet you, if you need anything, let me know. If you can’t get a hold of me, here’s 17 other people you can call for the same thing.” We’re just all big family.
— Edited by Logan Schlossberg