New beginnings

Jewish community observes its New Year and welcomes the arrival of a part-time rabbi

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— As the Jewish community in Steamboat Springs reflects on the past year, it has much to look forward to in the new year.

Rosh Hashanah, which began Friday at sundown, marks the Jewish New Year. It also marks the first time the 70 or so Jewish families who comprise Steamboat's Har Mishpachat, or Mountain Family, have their own rabbi to officiate the services.

Rabbi Joe Goldman of Denver will serve as part-time rabbi to the growing Har Mishpachat congregation.

His presence brings a refreshing sense of leadership to the loosely knit group of families and individuals who have kept services going without a spiritual leader for many years.

"We are elated to have the services of a rabbi," said Gary Engle, who serves as president of the Har Mishpachat.

Engle described the Har Mishpachat as a grassroots kind of Jewish community that thrives on participation.

Word of a part-time rabbi to direct the development and implementation of adult and youth education programs and enhance community activism has evoked strong support from active members and brought in some new members.

"This is the first time the congregation will have the services of a rabbi on a regular basis," said Jane Romberg, a longtime member of Har Mishpachat.

Goldman will return after the High Holy Day services to lead services during five other extended weekends throughout the year.

But the High Holy Days, which begin at Rosh Hashanah and conclude 10 days later with Yom Kippur, represent the most religious time of the year for Jews.

Yom Kippur begins at sundown Sept. 15 and ends the following evening. Also known as the Day of Forgiveness or the Day of Atonement, it is time set aside for retrospection and repentance.

"It's a personal inner evaluation," Goldman said.

Many Jews will refrain from work, fast and attend services during the day. Fasting serves to cleanse the soul and make amends for the past year's wrongdoings.

Not all Jews fast on Yom Kippur, but their choice to fast or not to fast must be a personal decision, Goldman said.

The fast is broken at the closing of Yom Kippur when people gather for fellowship, food and drink.

Throughout the High Holy Days, the Jewish people look back on their actions over the past year and consider how they might make changes for the better.

"It's impressive to me that it holds a great deal of power and authority," Goldman said.

Although the absence of food represents casting off the old and embracing the new, different foods also symbolize the idea of change in the Jewish New Year.

On the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, Jewish families observed the practice of Tashlikh. They stood along the river at Weiss Park and emptied their pockets filled with breadcrumbs into the water. Throwing the breadcrumbs on the water symbolizes the tossing away of sins.

Families dip apples or bread in honey on the eve of Rosh Hashanah as a symbol of their wish for a sweet new year.

Sue and Clay Ogden and their children, Hannah, 9, and Sam, 7, partook of the sweet treat Thursday evening in their home. The Ogdens represent one of Steamboat's interfaith families.

Clay Ogden is not Jewish, but he feels Goldman is someone who can reach out to all segments of the community and relate to other religions.

"He's a rabbi for today's age," Ogden said. "He speaks to a wide range of beliefs."

Goldman feels the Jewish community must be more inclusive.

"Being Jewish requires a bonding and sense of obligation to both the Jewish and general communities," he said.

Goldman retired several years ago but came out of retirement when the Jewish community in Park City, Utah, sought a rabbi.

The Park City congregation eventually grew so large that a full-time rabbi became necessary.

The members of Har Mishpachat and Goldman hope to see similar growth in Steamboat.

The presence of a rabbi sometimes weighs in Jewish families' decisions to move to Steamboat, Engle said.

Knowing a rabbi is available in Steamboat might persuade more families to join the Jewish community in Steamboat, he said.

"He's just bringing a real knowing and power to the Jewish community," Susan Ogden said.

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