Holy days recall new, old sorrows

Atonement: Jewish congregations conclude their holiday season with observance of Yom Kippur, a day for introspection.

September 28, 2001|By Donna W. Payne | Donna W. Payne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Solemn traditional prayers and those born of urgent modern sorrows marked the High Holy Days for Howard County's Jewish community.

Observances began the evening of Sept. 17 with Rosh Hashana - the new year, 5762, in the Jewish calendar. The season ended yesterday with Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement.

Yom Kippur "is the observance that draws to the conclusion the 10 days of repentance that stretch from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur," said Rabbi Mark Panoff of Temple Isaiah Congregation in Columbia."[Yom Kippur] is a day of prayer [and] introspection, looking and judging ourselves, and being also judged by God," said Rabbi Hillel Baron of the orthodox Congregation Ahavas Israel in Columbia.

Temple Isaiah began the 24 hours of Yom Kippur, a somber day of fasting and prayer, Wednesday evening with a traditional Kol Nidre service. The sense of the ancient Kol Nidre prayer, Panoff said, "is to seek pardon and forgiveness." Associate concert master Adrian Semo of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra played the Kol Nidre on his violin, and the cantor chanted the words.

Columbia's Calah Congregation held its Kol Nidre service in temporary facilities at The Other Barn in Oakland Mills Village Center. The congregation used a prayer book that was assembled especially for the High Holidays by its rabbi, Herbert Kumin.

Members of the congregation brought objects to transform the public meeting space into a place of worship - 12 memorial plaques with the names of loved ones who died, the Ark of the Covenant and the congregation's three Torahs.

"It's a community of volunteers that are getting this together," said Robert Sacks, assistant to the rabbi.

The Torahs were held in the arms of three men who stood for the duration of the service. Each Torah scroll contains the five books of Moses, and selections from them were read aloud.

The Calah congregation is fortunate to have a famous Torah, Sacks said. "[It is] one of only a few hundred that were recovered from Czechoslovakia that were buried during the Holocaust."

The prayers of Yom Kippur also focus on those who have died, Sacks said.

"Probably the most solemn [service] and the one that tears everyone up is the Yizkor service [on Thursday] ... a remembrance ... of everyone that you buried. It will have resonance with the tragedies of the last couple of weeks, as well as with the Holocaust," Sacks said.

Lynn Green, a leader in the Calah congregation, said this year's prayers of remembrance had special meaning for her family. Green honored her father, Marty Klein, who died Sept. 11, the same day as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Klein was 94 years old and the congregation's oldest member.

"My father was special," Green said. "Everybody knew him. Everybody cared for him."

This year, county Jewish congregations added new prayers to the traditional ones of repentance and remembrance.

On Sunday, the Jewish Federation of Howard County sponsored a service of healing and renewal in solidarity with those who suffered in the attacks of Sept. 11.

The Calah congregation prayed for the nation and its leaders "at every service during the High Holidays," Sacks said. At Ahavas Israel, additional prayers and psalms were offered for those who were injured or killed in the attacks, Baron said.

At Bet Yeladim Kindergarten in Columbia, children collected Tzedakah money to contribute to the families of firefighters in New York, said teacher Marlene Zytcer. Tzedakah - acts of charity - are part of the tradition for Yom Kippur and year-round, Jewish leaders said. And, in the spirit of Teshuva (repentance) during Yom Kippur, the Bet Yeladim children made Teshuva Traffic Lights.

"The red light signifies `Stop, think about what you're doing,'" Zytcer said. "Yellow [means] `Wait, make a choice,' and green, `then go and do the right thing.'"

Yom Kippur is "the holiday that gives us that moment when we can get off the treadmill," Panoff said, "and really focus on ... what's going on in our lives and try to make for a change and a new direction."

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