BRATTLEBORO—At sundown on Sunday, Sept. 13, Jewish people all over the world will welcome Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish year 5776. Rosh Hashanah (translation: head of the year) begins a sacred period known as the Days of Awe that culminates 10 days later on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, observed this year on Sept. 23.
Daniel Kasnitz, president of the Brattleboro Area Jewish Community (Congregation Shir Heharim), announces that Rosh Hashanah services will begin at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 at the West Village Meeting House of All Souls Church on South Street in West Brattleboro and continue there the next day at 9:30 a.m.
People who wish to observe the traditional second day of services are welcome to meet at the congregation’s synagogue at 151 Greenleaf St. in West Brattleboro on Tuesday morning at 10.
Yom Kippur services begin on Tuesday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m. at the West Village Meeting House with the beautiful and haunting Kol Nidre prayer, and continue there the next day at 9:30 a.m.
There is a Yizkor service, with special memorial prayers remembering and honoring the departed, at 11:30 a.m., and a late afternoon service with a reading from the Book of Jonah at 5 p.m., followed by Ne’ilah, the closing service at 6 p.m.
Congregation Shir Heharim’s high holiday services are led by Cantor Kate Judd, the congregation’s spiritual leader, assisted by several community members who will co-lead parts of the service.
The Days of Awe are marked by contemplation, introspection, confession, and prayer. Reflecting upon the past year, Jews worldwide ask forgiveness from family and friends they may have hurt. Tradition teaches that once this is accomplished, God’s forgiveness follows.
The season is regarded as a time of judgment, when people seek atonement and pray to be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year. On Yom Kippur, 24 hours are spent in prayer and contemplation, with no food or drink from 7 p.m. Friday until after sunset on Saturday.
As the long day ends, the Ne’ilah service portrays the Gates of Heaven slowly closing as the last prayers of atonement are offered to God. Like many people everywhere, Jews are comforted by the belief that if they strive to make themselves better than they were in the past God will forgive them and grant them life.
Members of the congregation, their guests, area residents and visitors, and students in residence at nearby schools are welcome to attend high holiday services. Although tickets are not needed, the congregation depends on donations from guests to help cover the costs of the services. No one will be turned away, but suggested donations of $100 per person for each holiday are greatly appreciated.
Children younger than 13, and students at area residential schools, are welcome without donations. Folks who are not members of BAJC are asked to call 802-464-2632 to have their names put on a guest list.
If possible, make donations ahead of time by sending checks to BAJC, P.O. Box 2353, Brattleboro, VT 05303. If a guest decides to join the congregation at any time after the holidays, the donation will be applied toward membership.