Student perspectives

My Sukkot Speech

 By: David Cohen

IMG_1930.jpgSukkot is a time of change of renewal. Once a year, on this special holiday, we take a break from the ordinary and exit our homes to dwell in the Sukkah. For many, that’s an uncomfortable transition. The heat, the rain, the bugs – there are a million reasons not to enjoy it here. But Sukkot isn’t supposed to be a time of discomfort. Rather the opposite. We’re supposed to enjoy dwelling in this hut. In fact, one of the commandments of the holiday of Sukkot is to be joyful. So, what can we learn from this?


We’re fortunate to have the high holidays line up with the beginning of each new school year. Many of us are experiencing radical change in our lives right now. Between the things we knew we'd put up with (classes, making new friends) and the things that we hadn’t accounted for (like setting aside a 2.5 hour block for laundry, and pledgeship), we've all had our lives turned upside down since being in Austin. 


For those of us who aren't freshmen or transfers, adjustments were still made. Maybe it's your first year having to live off-campus. Maybe you're living in a fraternity or sorority house, having to put up with late nights or other shenanigans. Maybe this is your first year off a meal plan.


Sukkot is a yearly reminder that while all of these changes may stress you out and push you outside of your comfort zone, we’re supposed to appreciate it all. And we should enjoy life. Otherwise what are we doing?


On Yom Kippur, we look inside ourselves and search for problems that need to be resolved. On Sukkot, we do the exact opposite. We enter the outdoors and look externally, and instead of focusing on the negative, we appreciate the beauty and unpredictability of the great outdoors, and life itself. 


Sukkot is about optimism. It’s about finding light in the darkest places. It’s about being thankful for what we have and who we’re with. 


So, as we abandon our homes and enter the Sukkah, you should temporarily abandon your stress and concerns, and focus on what matters in life. In the Sukkah, focus on the big picture, not the nitty gritty of the everyday. In the Sukkah, rediscover your love for life. 

Pink Shabbat

IMG_8350.jpgBy: Sophia Cantor

When my best friend’s mom died from breast cancer during our junior year of high school, it was the first time someone close to me had passed.
I met my best friend Skyler in sixth grade. Thankfully, our younger sisters, who happen to be the same age, became best friends soon after. The first time I met Skyler’s mom, Beth Thomas Stark, was when she took Skyler and I to Six Flags. I went home and immediately told my parents that she was way cooler than them. My dad was fine with this considering he would never drive 45 min to watch me spin in circles.
Though Beth was born in the middle-of-nowhere Kansas, she was well travelled and loved New Zealand; where she raised her daughters Skyler and Kaci. Beth was the valedictorian of her class and went on to be a first generation college graduate. She quickly became a successful scientist, but retired early to fight cancer.
For the 6 years I knew Beth, she was always fighting her breast cancer in a new way. She fought and she did everything for the sake of her daughters. She was able to gain highly specialized cancer treatment due to her expansive and specialized scientific knowledge. Her respect within the science community and high character allowed her prolonged participation in a cancer study even when she was no longer eligible.
Her understanding of life spanned well beyond science. Though she was never religious, she was spiritual and had a deep appreciation for the world around her. She grew plants around the house and had a small garden on the back porch. The front door was painted blue and the door knocker was in the shape of a pineapple; a universal sign of welcome and warmth. Even those who were not close to her, felt enhanced by her presence.
When her life was nearing the end, my friends and I created a scrapbook. We each choose a word to describe her for our own personal page. The word I chose was hero. Beth is my hero because despite the many hardships in her life, she lived in a positive and radiating manner that allowed everyone around her to feel impacted by her wisdom and happiness.
I aspire to live as fully and as gracefully as Beth. I hope to live up to her expectations of respect for others and plan to follow in her footsteps in the field of science to aid in the mitigation of cancer’s impact across the globe.
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