Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Happy New Year!

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown today.

My story, which runs tomorrow, looks at the demographics and the future of the Jewish community in Shreveport. It was a hard, sad story to write. The Jewish congregations are vital, spiritual places and members are active in the wider community, and I wanted to make that clear. In fact, I was floored when I heard there are only 400 Jews in Shreveport - I knew it was a small group, but I didn't think it was that small. But the reality of the numbers means they might not be able to maintain their facilities and structures for very long. Read it - let me know what you think could be done.

With that said, the story doesn't discuss the particulars of the holiday very much, so I thought I would add some of that here. Rosh Hashanah begins 10 days of reflection and repentance leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement on Sept. 22. They are explicitly mentioned in the Bible (Leviticus 23:23-32) and are the most important holidays in the calendar. The period is commonly referred to as the High Holy Days.

The holiday begins festively, with apples and honey being one of the preferred foods to symbolize a sweet New Year. Services are characterized by the blowing of the shofar, or rams horn. The shofar calls to mind the Kingship of God and his eventual judgement of people.

To all my Jewish friends, I wish you many blessings.
Photo: Rabbi Foster Kawaler, of Congregation Agudath Achim, blows a shofar. Times file photo

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