The Holy Days

The Jewish community prepares for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

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Irv Edelman's family drove to Pasadena, Calif., just before sundown on the Sabbath to avoid a drive to the synagogue.

Edelman's father was a cantor, a singing Jewish spiritual leader, and his synagogue was too far away to walk from their home in the San Fernando Valley.

For Orthodox Jews, mechanical transportation is prohibited on the Sabbath.

The Sabbath begins Friday at sundown and ends Saturday at sundown. In an Orthodox Jewish household, the laws of Judaism are strictly obeyed.

"It didn't seem different to me at the time. I didn't realize how strict it was," Edelman said.

But across the country in Texas and Arizona, Gary Engle's family was driving cars on the Sabbath. Engle grew up in a reform Jewish household, which did not observe the laws to the same degree.

"My household wouldn't be much different from most, except that we celebrated different holidays than the Christian or Catholic population," Engle said.

Jewish families, just like any others across the world, may celebrate the same traditions with a unique twist personal to each family.

The upcoming High Holy Days symbolize reflection and repentance some will dip apples in honey, some will throw bread crumbs in a body of water and others will fast.

Rosh Hashanah marks the Jewish New Year on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei.

Rosh Hashanah begins Monday at sundown, and continues until Tuesday at sundown.

During Rosh Hashanah Jews begin to look back on the following year to recognize their wrongdoings and recall what is important and good in life.

Linda Liman and her 10-year-old daughter, Sarah Baumgartner, prepare with a large dinner on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, including dipping apples in honey.

"We do lots of cooking, making motzah ball soup and a big dinner," Liman said. "It's a real time for family to be together. The whole Jewish community comes together."

Along with the apple and honey combination, Liman said a prayer over the candle lighting, or She-Heheyanu, and drinking a cup of sweet wine, or Kiddush, with a prayer to bless the holidays are typical traditions.

Holiday bread, called the hallah, comes in a round shape to symbolize a crown during Rosh Hashanah. Hallah typically is long and narrow when eaten on the Sabbath.

A blessing over the food, or Ha-Motzi, ends the sundown tradition.

Liman said she typically attends Rosh Hashanah services on the eve, but orthodox Jews will attend for two days.

Another Jewish tradition brings people with pockets full of bread crumbs to disperse into a body of water, called Tashlikh. This religious tradition is meant to symbolize tossing away sins.

Growing up in an Orthodox household, Edelman said he followed the Jewish laws of not eating pork or shellfish, nor did he drink a glass of milk with a plate of meat at dinner.

Edelman said he dropped many of the orthodox Jewish traditions when he attended college.

But both Edelman and Engle agreed that having children gives more meaning to their Jewish heritage.

Edelman and Engle sat at a dining room table and reveled in being Jewish as an adult in Steamboat Springs.

"You get back to it when you have kids. In a way, it works. Not just because of your kids, but yourself also," Edelman said of returning to Jewish practices.

Now that Edelman, Engle and Liman have children of their own, religious practices and traditions seem to have more significance.

"More recently as an adult, I tend to give more thought in the days preceding (the High Holy Days)," Edelman said.

Unlike the American New Year, the Jewish New Year is, in part, a solemn and quiet time to reflect and ponder what it is people want to improve upon in their lives.

Liman grew up in a reform Jewish household, but didn't keep kosher the strict laws of Judaism that prohibit certain dietary customs, for instance.

The High Holy Days continue for 10 days ending with Yom Kippur, the Day of Forgiveness or the Day of Atonement.

Liman said she does not fast during Yom Kippur; however, that is the common practice to cleanse the soul.

"It's a real spiritual, mystical time. The chant, Kol Nidre, clears the slate between each person and God and allows for a time of reflection," Liman said.

The Liman household burns certain candles for everyone who has passed away in their family on Yom Kippur.

Liman recalled the exciting time of breaking the fast at the closing of Yom Kippur when people get together to eat and drink and share fellowship.

Services for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur begin this week and continue into the next.

Steamboat doesn't have a spiritual leader a rabbi or cantor but has designated Engle to lead the Jewish community group, Har Mishpachat, or Mountain Family.

With no traditional meeting place for a Jewish service, Edelman said people have to become a motivating force.

"Because of the lack of a spiritual leader, we're faced with celebrating the Holy Days and having services (with) the responsibility falling on the Jewish community. I'm faced with a challenge," Engle said.

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