Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rosh Hashanah

At sundown on Friday, Sept. 18, Jewish families in La Cañada Flintridge will mark the beginning of the year 5770 on the Jewish calendar.

The holiday is called Rosh Hashanah, which means the “head” or beginning of the year. In the Bible, the holiday is referred to as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar or ram’s horn). Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of a ten-day period of observance and introspection, which culminates with Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

The Harris family of La Cañada Flintridge will observe the holiday by attending synagogue services and sharing several celebratory meals with extended family and friends.

Isaac Harris, 10, says his favorite part of the holiday is the food, prepared by his mother, Tiffany Harris.

“There are many symbolic foods associated with the holiday,” explains Tiffany. “I prepare a traditional beef brisket, and we serve apples dipped in honey for a sweet new year. I also serve pomegranate — the many seeds symbolize the good deeds we aim for in the year ahead. I order two round challahs from Cakery Bakery. Challah is the traditional bread that we enjoy every Friday at our Shabbat dinner. For Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year, the challah is round, symbolizing the cycle of completing one year and starting the next.”

Isaac’s favorite food is the brisket. His sister, Brooklyn, 6, prefers “apples dipped in honey.” Rachel, 8, likes both the brisket and the honey-dipped apples.

The Harrises look forward to services at Conservative Adat Ari El synagogue (www.adatariel.org) on all three days.

“Adat is filled with great joy on the holiday,” explains dad Marc Harris. “One service in particular that we enjoy is a Young Family service with music and singing.”

There are no synagogues in La Cañada , but several denominations of Judaism are represented in nearby communities. Some La Cañada residents belong to Temple Sinai of Glendale ( www.temple-sinai.net), a Reform temple. Others join Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center in Pasadena, also known as “PJTC” ( www.pjtc.net), a Conservative synagogue. Some attend Orthodox services at the Chabad centers in Glendale (www.chabadcenter.org) and Pasadena(www.chabadpasadena.com).

Rosh Hashanah services vary between the denominations. Reform temples, such as Temple Sinai of Glendale, will conduct services on Friday night and Saturday. The Conservative and Orthodox will observe Rosh Hashanah for an additional day, on Sunday.

La Cañadan Cara Jaffe, 36, a life-long member of PJTC, notes that PJTC is in the process of merging with the Conservative synagogue in Arcadia and will conduct services at both locations. She will attend services in Arcadia on Friday night and Saturday, and at Pasadena on Sunday. “The Arcadia services on Saturday will be more traditional,” Jaffe explains, with singing, but no musical instruments — a reminder of her childhood.

Tiffany and Marc are creating memories for Isaac, Rachel and Brooklyn. The three Harris children attend Polytechnic School in Pasadena and are also are enrolled in the Adat Ari El religious school.

“We love Adat Ari El for many reasons, in particular because of the amazing teaching by the Rabbis and because we are engaged in many social action projects,” said Tiffany. “I feel closest to God when I am packing lunches for the homeless shelter, volunteering at the food pantry, or organizing the collection of holiday items for families in need.

“When the fires were raging in the hills above La Cañada, we received numerous calls from our rabbi and other friends and families from Adat Ari El who were concerned about us and offered us places to stay, food and anything we needed. We are fortunate to be part of such a loving, caring community.”

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