Thursday, September 24, 2009

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, begins at sundown on Sept. 27 and ends at nightfall on Sept. 28. For observant Jews, it is a time to fast, contemplate and pray.

The Bernhard family of La Cañada Flintridge is in the midst of preparations.

“Our family’s Yom Kippur observance starts with an early dinner just for our family, one that will hold us through the 25-hour fast we try to observe,” said Amy Bernhard. “Our daughter Talia, 13, an eighth-grader at LCHS, is now considered an adult in the Jewish community, so she’s supposed to fulfill the same obligations as an adult.”

Mica, 11, is not required to fast. Eldest sister, Adrienne, 25, lives in New York.

After an early dinner on Sunday night, Mark and Amy Bernhard, and their two children will attend evening service at Adat Ari El synagogue in Valley Village. The service will begin with the “Kol Nidre” prayer recited in Aramaic. advertisement

Yom Kippur is a time for contemplation.

“Having just escaped potential disaster with the Station fire while witnessing the incredible skill and sacrifices of the firefighters and other emergency personnel, I’m more aware of how fortunate our family and our community is,” Amy said. “Although I’m very involved in the educational welfare of our kids here in La Cañada, this experience compels me to think about reaching outside La Cañada.”

The Bernhards will return to the synagogue on Monday morning.

“Talia and Mica are not are not happy about missing school, but they’re not given a choice about it,” said Amy.

After sundown on Monday night, the Bernhards will host a “break-the-fast” dinner with friends and family. “It’s my favorite meal of all the Jewish holidays!” exclaimed Amy . “Bagels and lox, tuna, egg salad — I could eat it every day.”

This year, the recent loss of firefighters Arnie Quinones, 34, and Capt. Ted Hall, 47, during

the Station fire has made an impact. LCHS eighth grade history teacher Janis Fuhrman said that the Station fire puts Yom Kippur “into clear focus. People — not things — are important. We must live each day fully holding on tightly to those we love.”

Fuhrman has a sign in her classroom that reads: “The children in my classroom are infinitely more important that the subject matter I teach.”

“This quote has become a daily affirmation, not only during fires or the High Holy days,” Fuhrman said. Fuhrman will attend Yom Kippur services at Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center.

Attorney Ed Vaisbort and his daughter, Ariel, a La Cañada High School student, will attend Yom Kippur services at Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center.

“Separate from serving as a reminder of the fragility of life, the Station fire also serves to reinforce the concept of the ebb and flow of the cycle of life,” Vaisbort said. “Since time immemorial, wildfires are part of nature’s cycle to clear out dead or dying plant life in the service of permitting new life to flourish. With the advent of man, we view wildfires solely as a threat to our society, rather than part of a natural cycle to be celebrated as a part of nature.“In a similar sense, Yom Kippur, with its ritual fast and day of contemplation, permits us the chance to meditate on how to clear out the patterns and old habits which may have resulted in injustice or other harm to ourselves and others, and develop new ways of dealing with others and the world.”

Paul and Reva Dietz said they feel that “the recent fire gave us a perfect time to reflect on what is really important in our lives.”

As the family loaded their belongings before being evacuated, they were struck by how very few of their possessions were important. A few pictures and family documents were loaded carefully leaving a house full of things that, on reflection, were just things, the family said.

“Friends Jim and Denise Schaefer opened their home to us, and the volume of calls from other dear friends over the next few days was truly overwhelming,” the family recalled. “In the end, we were able to return after a couple of days with no loss, enriched by the immeasurable reminder that real treasure can be counted by the support of true friends.”

The Dietz family look forward to services at Temple Sinai of Glendale, where, according to Paul, they “will no doubt be inspired by words from our rabbi, Rick Schechter, and music from our cantor, Marianna Gindlin. We will reflect on the things most important to us, not things at all but our friends and family.”

There are no synagogues in La Cañada Flintridge. In addition to the two Conservative synagogues, Adat Ari El in Valley Village ( and Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center (, some locals, including the Dietz family, will attend Temple Sinai of Glendale (, a Reform temple.

There are also Orthodox Chabad houses in Glendale ( and Pasadena (

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