Jewish New Year begins

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BRATTLEBORO — At sundown on Wednesday, Jewish people all over the world will welcome Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish year 5778.

Rosh Hashanah 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. 30.

Laura Berkowitz and Stephan Brandstatter, Co-Presidents of Congregation Shir Heharim, announce that the Brattleboro Area Jewish Community will offer Rosh Hashanah services beginning at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the West Village Meeting House of All Souls Church on South Street in West Brattleboro, and continuing there the next day at 9:30 a.m.

Yom Kippur services begin on Sept. 29, 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 at about 11:30 a.m. that day with special memorial prayers remembering and honoring the departed, a traditional Musaf service at around 12:30 p.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.

Congregation Shir Heharim's high holiday services will be led by Cantor Kate Judd, the congregation's spiritual leader. Cantor Judd was ordained by Hebrew College in Newton, Mass., a pluralistic seminary, where she also received a masters of Jewish education. Cantor Judd has performed throughout New England as oratorio and operatic soloist and was a service leader at several synagogues before becoming the spiritual leader of the Brattleboro Area Jewish Community five years ago. She will be 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 around the world ask forgiveness from family, friends, and other people they may have hurt. Tradition teaches that once this is accomplished, forgiveness from God will follow. 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 Friday night until after sunset on Saturday night. 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 people everywhere, Jews are comforted by the hope that if they really strive to make themselves better than they were in the past, God will forgive them and grant them life.

BAJC welcomes all to attend high holy day services. New prayer books have the full service in Hebrew, with both English translation and transliteration, along with interpretative study texts. All the Hebrew prayers are transliterated so that people who don't read Hebrew can follow and participate. BAJC does not require tickets or reservations, but it is hoped that guests will help cover the expenses of making the services available to all. Suggested donation is $100 per person for each holiday.

Mail donations to BAJC, PO Box 2353, Brattleboro 05303, in advance so guests can be welcomed at the door and we can follow the tradition of not dealing with money or record-keeping on the holy days. Donations from guests will be applied toward membership if the donor decides to become a member of the congregation at any time during the year.

Visit bajcvermont.org or call 802-257-1959 for more information.

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