Jews in the quad-city area will be joining their co-religionists around the world in a community of prayer this month to usher in the most solemn period of Jewish observance.
The High Holy Days, which begin with Rosh Hashanah on the evening of Sept. 16 and conclude with Yom Kippur on Sept. 25, mark the Jewish New Year. But, unlike its secular counterpart, the Jewish New Year culminates a month of charity, repentance and prayer as Jews seek to review their actions over the previous year, to make amends and to resolve to live up to the best in them during the year ahead.
"Jews traditionally believe that on Rosh Hashanah, God reviews and judges every person's actions over the past year, and seals judgment on Yom Kippur," said Rabbi William Berkowitz of Prescott's Temple B'rith Shalom. "We pray that we'll be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year."
For most Jews, Berkowitz added, the High Holy Days are about coming together for peace, healing and mutual support. "It's a time for all of us to reflect on how we've lived our lives, as individuals and as part of our community-and how we can do better going forward."
This year, Cantor Sheila Nesis will sing with the choir and congregation on Rosh Hashanah evening, Sept. 16, and at Kol Nidre on the evening of Sept. 25. Nesis, born in Buenos Aires, has sung with congregations in Argentina, as well as in New York, California, Texas and Arizona.
The Days of Awe begin with blasts from the shofar, or ram's horn, a tradition that dates from biblical times. "The sound of the shofar is a summons to prayer," said Berkowitz. "It reminds us that when our ancestors received the Torah on Mount Sinai, it was accompanied by thunder, lightning and the sound of the shofar. When we hear the shofar, we're prompted to observe the Torah and adhere to its commandments."
Though the High Holy Days are a solemn time, Jews traditionally begin the period with a festive meal. They also eat apples and honey to symbolize hopes for a sweet year.
Yom Kippur, which is at the end of the High Holy Days, is a way for Jews to cleanse themselves through fasting and prayer, Berkowitz said. "It's our way of connecting with the best that is in us and what God expects of us. It enables us to bridge the gap between who we can be and what we have been."
For further information, call the temple at 708-0018.