Photo by LAURA ARCHAZKI-PACTER, Staff // Buy this photo
Learning about shofar
Throughout the years, families of the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island, join together at the Temple on Rosh Hashanah to celebrate the Jewish New Year. Both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are High Holidays for the Jewish faith, with traditions dating back more than 5,000 years. Rosh Hashanah falls on Sept. 29 and continues until sundown on Sept. 30.
Ten days following Rosh Hashanah services, members of the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island, JCMI, will also celebrate Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, where they will fast for 24 hours following their evening Neilah Services on Yom Kippur.
In these services, Jewish people ask God’s forgiveness for transgressions during the past year. JCMI will be celebrating this year with a delicious Break the Fast Dinner held at the Temple on Oct. 9 for Temple members and those who would like to reserve a space to participate in this special evening.
A brief history
“Technically, there were originally four Jewish New Years in one year, now we just celebrate one New Year,” explains Hari Jacobsen, Cantorial Soloist, for JCMI. Rosh Hashanah dates back to the traditional New Year of the Jewish calendar 5769, whereas the Gregorian calendar sets the New Year to arrive in the exciting countdown just before Jan. 1, 2009. Judaism welcomes the New Year in the context of faith with a somber and celebratory service, rather than cork-popping champagne frivolity of the Gregorian calendar.
The Blau family’s new year
Reflecting on the solemnity of the services, are 13-year members of the Temple, Roger and Joanne Blau. Roger Blau served as the Temple’s President from 2004 to 2006, too.
“The high holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are about self-evaluation and ethical preparation. It’s not regarding resolutions about simple things like giving up cigarette smoking, says Roger.
“It’s more about personal introspection, inherent in the High Holiday observance. It’s closer to preconditioning, before you ask God for your own forgiveness. If you have anything that’s outstanding between you and another human being, you should resolve this first, before coming to God,” Roger explains. “It’s a unique belief, he quips of the High Holiday observance.
“When we arrive home following Yom Kippur services, the first thing we do is take a slice of apple and dip it into honey to welcome the New Year with health and prosperity,” Roger says of how his family celebrates with traditional foods.
But the Blau’s added an extra tradition to their New Year. They perform a good deed, or a “mitzvah” by donating food to local families. “We give to Manatee Elementary School as they have specific list of food they need for children there. Most of the adult parents are all migrant workers, so there’s no support from the government for them,” states Joanne of what prompted them to reach out to those families.
The Segall family’s high holiday
“It’s an introspective service, where you look at your inner self. The mood here is very reflective. I ask myself what have I done this year, and where I can be better? I ask where I have failed my loved ones?” says Ralph Segall of how he prepares for the holiday.
Married 58 years to Rosalie, the two are 13-year members of the JCMI. Ralph and Rosalie say the solemn music of the Kol Nidrei Service is what draws them closer to God, too. Kol Nidrei prayer will be sung at the beginning of the service by cantorial soloist, Hari Jacobsen, this year.
“For these High Holidays, our family uses a round loaf of challah, which symbolizes there’s no beginning and no end. It’s like a wedding ring,” says Ralph whose wife used to bake the tasty braided bread for high holidays, but now they find the challah at local bakeries. The bread is often baked throughout the year, and is braided into a circle for Rosh Hashanah.
The Silver family’s traditions
“I love the High Holidays,” says Barbara Silver, as she cooks many traditional dishes to share with her family, too. “I always serve noodle pudding, gefilte fish, apples and honey.”
Silver recently lost her husband due to a stroke, so her family will celebrate the holiday in Cincinnati, Ohio where they have a second home. “Our Temple is huge, we have three Rabbis, and we’ll have 1,400 families come for services.
“It’s tradition within our family to have brisket with vegetables. My husband, God bless him, would reheat the brisket and snack for a week after the meal was served,” she says with a laugh.
“Yom Kippur begins Wednesday evening with two services, and there will be dinner before the service. The next day’s service is in the morning and goes until 3 o’clock in the afternoon. We go all day to services. After that, we have the Memorial Service, where my husband’s name will be read at the Havdalah service,” says Silver as she will also visit his grave, and place a stone there to remember him between the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Rabbi Maline’s high holiday
Similarly, Rabbi Edward Maline will be celebrating the High Holidays with members of his congregation, rather than at home with his family. Maline is developing his sermon for these important days for JCMI.
“In the Kol Nidrei Service, or evening service, there is a prayer that gives the evening its name. Sung by the cantor, the Kol Nidrei is one of the most solemn prayers in the Jewish Liturgy. This melody reminds us of sadness of Jewish history, and the tragedies,” says Maline, leading his congregation in celebrating the High Holidays for the first time with JCMI.
“It’s truly a very awesome and majestic evening. The shofar is the highlight of the service, and it is an awakening for the Jewish people to renew themselves,” he adds as he arranges four pages of notes on his desk for his sermon.
He turned a page and read a small portion of his sermon. “There’s a teaching in the Jewish tradition that life and death are in the power of the tongue. The words we speak have the power to comfort, to heal, to uplift, or bruise. We hear things in this political campaign. They’re saying things, they say they regret. Kol Nidrei speaks to us of the sanctity of words and penitence for our words. These words have the power to create wars, to bring people together, and the words have power to separate them,” Rabbi Maline shares from his sermon, which easily applies to everyday life.