Celebrating the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah

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(ABC 6 News) – You might see the phrase “Rosh Hashanah” on your social media this week, it’s the name given to the Jewish New Year.

Rosh Hashanah is the first of the Jewish High Holy Days. The phrase means “head of the year” in Hebrew.

It’s a time to reflect and repent ahead of the new year. The holiday is celebrated with prayer, and symbolic foods like apples, honey, and challah. There of course is the blowing of a shofar.

“It’s among the things that were used when they were announcing to one another on the hilltops in ancient times that the holiday had been declared. That they have all seen the new moon,” said Rabbi Michelle Werner with B’nai Israel Synagogue in Rochester.

“They would send messages across the hills through sound. So it’s a way of binding the community together. The hearing of that sound brings people together and there are people who come here and their holy day is not complete until they’ve heard the shofar blown.”

Rosh Hashanah ends Tuesday night but the holiday isn’t exactly over. The holiday kicks off the High Holy Days or ten days of penitence. That time period ends with Yom Kippur, one of the most sacred, religious, Jewish holidays.

Yom Kippur is the day of atontement. A day when people ask for forgiveness for their sins. This is often done with fasting. The holiday also incorporates the Jewish tradition of using rocks as a sign of Memoriam.

In the Jewish religion, rocks are placed at gravesites when someone goes to visit. Typically, people are remembered on the date of their death based on the Jewish calendar. During Yom Kippur in the B’nai congregation, rocks of memorial are placed at the pulpit in the temple to bring in the presence of lost loved ones.

Following the death of a teacher at John Marshall High School, students regardless of religion took on the tradition of the memorial rocks.

“She was a member of our congregation and her students came here as part of our remembrance. They joined our remembrance with us. They took stones in memory of her which now will find themselves dispersed in classrooms around John Marshall. So they’re taking this beautiful tradition and they’re bringing it as a form of comfort and solace into the world.”

Rabbi Werner said people, regardless of their religion are always welcome to B’nai.