Students participated in a Repair the Lake trash cleanup event on Sept. 7, organized by Hillel, Interfraternity Council and National Panhellenic Conference. The event is a modernized version of the reverse Taschlish, a Jewish ritual observed for Rosh Hashana.
On the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana, Jewish people throw bread crumbs into a body of water to symbolize the casting off of sins in a ritual called Tashlich. Reverse Tashlich adds a modern flair to the Jewish tradition by cleaning up areas around bodies of water, which supports the fundamental Jewish ethical principle Bal Tashchit, meaning do not destroy. Hillel partnered with both IFC and PHA to hold a reverse Taschlish event and clean the campus and Langdon Street area.
“The practice of Tashlich for the Jewish community is to rid yourself of sin and start fresh in the new year,” Shelby Fosco, director of Jewish Student Life at University of Wisconsin Hillel Foundation said. “So, we thought what a better way to make that a campus community event by cleaning up campus and cleaning up the lakes to celebrate Rosh Hashana as well.”
The event fell the day before the first day of fall instruction, which coincides with Rosh Hashana. Following backlash around the schedule, the first day of the fall semester was not moved. Chancellor Rebecca Blank addressed the scheduling issue, stating “I very much regret this and I have worked to ensure we are taking every action we can to reduce the impact of the conflict.”
“We have so many vocally Jewish members and we wanted to also honor the fact that our school institutionally is set up to make students choose between class and community,” said IFC President Liam McLean. “So we wanted to do something that empowered the Jewish community.”
“Part of what IFC did is that Hillel saw that IFC was working with other Greek life entities that mobilized on the issue,” said McLean. “Hillel recognized that and reached out to us to have a partnered event.”
Students gathered in front of Gordon’s dining hall and began walking in groups towards Lake Mendota and the Langdon Street area. Students picked up any trash they saw on the street, sidewalk or on front lawns.
“I’m here today because I want to support my community and be able to make a difference of what is being thrown on the ground and into the lake,” Calvin Dong said. “I want to be able to support the community and keep it clean for everyone.”
The majority of IFC and PHA system houses are located on Langdon Street, generating a lot of trash on the weekends and after football games.
“We try our very best to be proactive in addressing community issues and we are also working on the reactive end,” McLean said. “So when we see issues happening we take immediate action with organizing and mobilizing people to do things that help any given situation. When it comes to these issues we have the best infrastructure to resolve it.”