Richmond’s Jewish community marks the New Year with traditional Rosh Hashanah celebrations
on October 1, 2019
Richmond’s Jewish community joined Jews around the world this week to mark their faith’s High Holidays. Among them, members of Temple Beth Hillel gathered to celebrate Rosh Hashanah which marks the New Year in the Jewish Calendar.
Greetings of “L’shana Tovah,” a Hebrew saying to wish someone a good year, filled the air as service began. Songs of praise, prayer readings, and the sounding of the shofar, a ram’s horn used during Jewish religious ceremonies, were the essence of the service. Afterward, worshippers broke bread and ate apples dipped in honey in hopes of a sweet New Year. Worship began at sunset on Sunday, September 30, and concludes at sunset on Tuesday, October 1.
Wishes for peace and good health echoed among members when asked what they were looking forward to for the new year.
“For me, I see [Rosh Hashanah] as a potential new beginning, because now we have the opportunity to start afresh, a new year . . . and hopefully, a chance for us to be truer and better versions of ourselves,” said Larry Fox, former president and board member of Temple Beth Hillel.
Temple Beth Hillel is a small Jewish reform temple that has been in Richmond for more than half a century. Around 70 families are part of the temple’s congregation. Diverse in essence, the temple is open to serving those in its community, even working with leaders from other faiths to give food to those in need and coming together during times of violence.
“[What] I would really like to see for [Rosh Hashanah] [is] an end to the hate and divisiveness,” said Neil Zarchin, President of Temple Beth Hillel. “Not just for Jews, but for so many Americans that are just coping with horrible animosity and hatred. That would be my hope for the coming year for the greater community.”
Heightened security prevailed on site for the service, due to fears of possible anti-Semitic attacks, especially during High Holidays. Next week marks Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, starting at sunset on Tuesday October 8.
“Well, my hope for the new year is that it’s a year of healing of divisions and people realizing that we’re all created in God’s image and we got to find what connects us, not what divides us,” said Rabbi Dean Kertesz.
For some, Rosh Hashanah is a time for prayer, self-reflection, and remembering to do good, something Rabbi Kertesz hopes for members of his congregation.
“Death is certain and the time of death is uncertain,” he said. “So what’s the most important thing you want to do with your life in the time you have left?”
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