Local Jewish community welcomes the new year


BY DAVID JACOBS • djacobs@rgj.com • September 27, 2008


On Monday night, they'll be welcoming in a new year —5769 — with the start of Rosh Hashana. The Jewish holiday marking the new year starts at sundown Monday and continues Tuesday.

"It means for the Jewish community a year of renewal, a year of getting together, assessing everything from the past year and giving it a fresh start," said Rabbi Mendel Cunin of Chabad of Northern Nevada in Reno.

"How you set yourself up at the beginning of Rosh Hashana, this special day, gives you great strength for the rest of the year," Cunin said.

Rosh Hashana means head of the year. The holiday is a time for prayer, family and reflection.

"With current events, you can never be sure about anything, but when you have faith, that's something that will get you through everything," Cunin said.

"There are no ups and downs," he said. "Your faith is steady. If you have that bit of stability in your life, it gives you great strength to overcome all other things, other challenges both financial and in all other aspects of life.

"If you put your faith in something steady, God-given beliefs, God-given morals of life, those things ... can carry on through anything," Cunin said.

The holiday also kicks off the Days of Awe that connect Rosh Hashana with the Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day.

"With Rosh Hashana, the books of life have opened up for the year," Cunin said. "Then on Yom Yippur, it's closed and sealed."

Yom Kippur begins the evening of Oct. 8 and runs through Oct. 9.

The Days of Awe are a time of repentance, faith, prayer and charity, Cunin notes.

"Everybody feels more spiritual these days," he said. "These are really special days, which we're given extra power to feel that way. Our hope is that we shall all have strength to keep the spirit of these days going all year long."

The shofar — a ram's horn — also will be blown starting with Rosh Hashana.

Youngsters in the Chabad's Jewish school have been busy learning all about Judaism's High Holy Days. Math, science and arts and crafts activities are used to provide information on the holiday.

"We gave them a real ram's horn," said Sarah Cunin, director of the school and the rabbi's wife. "We try to incorporate all of the senses."

The hands-on approach extends Jewish education about Rosh Hashana beyond the classroom.

"When they come home for the holiday, it's not just an isolated thing, a one-time thing, but it emphasizes so much more than that," she said.