Across the valleys, Jews prepare to reflect, repent
One congregation is offering a modern look at the holiday.
By JULIE A. WAGNER
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
Jewish congregations in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys are preparing for the High Holidays, which begin this week with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. They will be ushering in the year 5765.
Rosh Hashana, which is Thursday and Friday, starts at sundown Wednesday. It begins the 10 days of repentance which will end with Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, on Sept. 25.
The High Holidays are traditionally a time to celebrate a new year, reflect on one's life, repent and seek atonement.
Congregation Rodef Sholom in Youngstown is involving four congregants in their service. The two women and two men, who represent a wide age range and varied backgrounds, will speak on the theme, "I Am Jewish."
Rabbi Franklin Muller said the idea comes from the book of the same name. The book, a compilation of 147 essays by famous and everyday Jews from 12 countries, is based on the last words of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was killed by his captors in Pakistan while he was covering the war in Afghanistan.
Tonight, the congregation also is offering another modern-day perspective of the holiday with the ancient roots. There will be a dinner and a showing of the popular comedy "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. The movie is about a newsman covering Groundhog Day events in Punxsutawney, Pa., who is forced to relive the same day over and over.
Rabbi Muller said the theme ties into the holidays because it shows how everyday we get another chance in our lives.
Rabbi Simeon Kolko will address the responsibility to care for others at Beth Israel Temple Center in Warren. Rabbi Kolko said the services will focus on the sanctity of human life and each person's responsibility to uphold that.
"All agree that human life is sacred," he said, "but we live in an era where we send the message 'Fend for yourself,' or 'Take care of yourself.'"
"We are a community and we do have collective responsibility for each other," he said.
The big picture
In Boardman, Rabbi Joel Berman will focus on the big picture for his sermons.
"The big idea of the High Holidays is well known to most of us," he writes. "The prayer Unitane Tokef spells it out: On Rosh Hashana, God opens the Book of Life and starts a serious perusal of its entries, which are our names. On Yom Kippur he closes it. Somewhere in between, God decides what is going to happen to each of us. But is that the final word?
"Apparently not. The prayer goes on to tell us that Repentence, Prayer and Charity avert the severity of the decree. I wish you all an easy sentence."
Rabbi Berman plans to build on a theme how science and religion coexist.
"For many years, science has made us feel small, insignificant," he said. But, some scientists see that the science and faith are not exclusive to each other.
The main thread running through the messages will be about the universe and our place in it, he said.
At Children of Israel in Youngstown, Rabbi Nosson Schuman plans an in-depth study of the Shofar, the ram's horn played during Rosh Hashana.
The blowing of the horn is seen as a call to arouse and stir the soul, Rabbi Schuman said. He will speak about why the horn is blown in different ways at different times. Sometimes the sound is long and other times it is short, he said.