University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Yom Kippur no big deal for Jewish students

Celebration understated and weak for many in Copenhagen. Students point to lack of community

Yom Kippur, a holiday in the Jewish faith, represents a time of spiritual rejuvenation and tradition. But for Jewish international students in Copenhagen, tonight’s Yom Kippur celebration may be a different one altogether.

Jewish-American students Jenny Cohen and Leo Feldman feel that celebrating the holiday will be difficult in a country with so few Jews, and with so few similarities to the religion they have been practicing their whole lives.

»The community here is not as cohesive,« Feldman said. »It’s not non-existent, but the community aspect is still lacking.«

Difficult to relate

Yom Kippur, which begins tonight at sundown, is a day of atonement for followers of Judaism. Many Jews will fast from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday and attend temple services throughout Saturday, praying and requesting forgiveness for sins committed throughout the year. It is often considered one of the most important holidays in the religion, comparable to Easter for Christians.

Although many local temples will be holding open services, Feldman said these services are often geared towards older, more traditional followers. As Reform Jews, their practices are modernized and in many ways more relaxed. This tends to clash with practices of Orthodox Jews in Copenhagen, as Feldman and Cohen observed.

»It’s hard to relate to Jewish culture in Europe because I think American Jews put more emphasis on the culture and community of Judaism, rather than on the traditional religious aspect,« Cohen said.

A lack of community

In addition, there aren’t as many Jews in Copenhagen, which Feldman sees resulting in a lack of community, especially for those new to the city.

»I’ve met three [Jews, ed.] — myself included — here in Copenhagen,« Feldman said. »A lot of the people I’ve met don’t even know what the high holidays are.«

Despite their trepidation with the holiday spent in Copenhagen, Cohen and Feldman said they may still observe parts of the holiday on their own, such as Tashlikh, or the casting off of sins into water, symbolized by throwing bread into water.