Jews Begin Observance of High Holidays

Rosh Hashanah is a special holiday that marks the Jewish New Year. It is a time for Jews both to celebrate the excitement and promise of a new year. Yet it also initiates a period of reflection and introspection, urging us to examine who we are, how we are living our lives and what changes we want to commit to for the coming year. This period of the Jewish calendar, called the High Holy Days or Days of Awe, culminates in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. 

Traditionally, Jews eat apples with honey to celebrate a sweet start to the year. This is often accompanied by eating round Challah bread to signify the circularity of the calendar cycle. One of the most unique elements of the holiday is the blowing of the Shofar (a ram’s horn) throughout the service. This penetrating, primal sound is a powerful call to action, shaking us from our complacency, and calling us to engage in repentance. 

Rosh Hashanah this year marks the year 5,782 in the Jewish calendar. Rosh Hashanah will begin Monday evening and runs through Tuesday and Wednesday. Regardless of your faith, I wish you peace and goodness in the year ahead, or, as we say in Hebrew, Shana Tova.

Rabbi Josh Ratner is the rabbi of Congregation Beth El in Fairfield. He also recently joined the interfaith staff of the Office of Mission Integration, Ministry and Multicultural Affairs at Sacred Heart University. Ratner is a community leader, educator, spiritual adviser, and social justice advocate. He most recently served as the Director of Advocacy at JLens, a Jewish non-profit organization engaging corporate America on social, environmental, and Israel-oriented issues on behalf of Jewish foundations and philanthropies. He previously served as the director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater New Haven, Associate Rabbi and Jewish Educator at Yale Hillel, and as a pulpit rabbi at Congregation Kol Ami in Cheshire.

Ratner is a board member of the Jewish sustainability organization Hazon, a Global Justice Fellow with American Jewish World Service, and a Rabbinic Fellow of CLAL’s Rabbis Without Borders program. His writings about the interplay between Judaism and contemporary topics have been featured on myjewishlearning.com. Ratner was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary, and is a graduate of both Columbia University and Columbia Law School. He was a corporate attorney before entering rabbinical school. He and his wife, Dr. Elena Ratner, are the proud parents of Dimitri, Elijah, Gabriella and Sasha.

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