Pleasanton Weekly

News - September 23, 2011

Jewish High Holy Days begin Wednesday evening

Customs include remembering loved ones and seeking forgiveness

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

The Jewish High Holy Days are approaching with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, beginning the evening of Sept. 28, and Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, starting at sundown Oct. 7.

"All Jewish services begin in the evening and continue the following day," said Congregation Beth Emek's Rabbi David Katz.

Beth Emek offers a complete complement of holiday services, he noted.

"On Rosh Hashanah, we will cast bread crumbs into the arroyo behind the temple," Katz said. "It says in the Book of Micah you will cast your sins into the sea but we will cast them into the arroyo."

The celebration also includes the sounding of the shofar, the ram's horn.

"We read the story of Abraham who is about to sacrifice his son Isaac, and the ram takes the place of his son," Katz explained. "The sound of the shofar serves as a wakeup call to rise up to become better, and to remember that story."

Congregation Beth Emek, which has its center for Jewish learning, prayer and community at 3400 Nevada Court in Pleasanton, is holding "Selichot: Spiritual Preparation for the High Holy Days" at 9 p.m. tomorrow, lasting until just after midnight.

"Selichot is a service to begin to frame the holiday in religious terms and to get oneself into the spirit of the holiday in order to seek forgiveness," Katz said. "You have the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to ask forgiveness of God."

As Yom Kippur approaches, members of the congregation can place names of relatives and friends who have died into the Yizkor Book, which will be handed out at the Yom Kippur service.

"Yizkor means remembering," Katz said. "It's to remember those who have entered the world to come."

Beth Emek will hold two Rosh Hashanah services Wednesday, at 5:30 p.m. and at 8 p.m., as well as morning services Thursday and Friday. Go to for tickets to the services although no tickets are required Friday morning.

Another tradition in preparation for the Jewish New Year is baking the round challah bread. Chabad of the Tri Valley's Jewish Women's Circle gathered mother and daughter teams Wednesday to bake the breads together.

"All year long challah is braided, but it is traditionally round for Rosh Hashanah," explained Fruma Resnick, the director of Chabad's Jewish Women's Circle. The roundness represents the cyclical nature of the year and is also the shape of a crown, for on Rosh Hashanah, God is accepted as king.

Everyone at the mother/daughter challah bake was encouraged to bake one extra loaf to share with someone else the joy and warmth of the New Year.

The Chabad is having its Rosh Hashanah celebration at the Pleasanton Masonic Center. It will celebrate Yom Kippur at Four Points by Sheraton. See more at


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