Jewish High Holy Days commence, SCV to celebrate

Rabbi Mark Balzer, Rob Hershenson, Joyce Shulman and Lee Shulman stand infront of the congregation during Temple Beth Ami's Rosh Hashanah service. Michele Lutes/The Signal
Rabbi Mark Balzer, Rob Hershenson, Joyce Shulman and Lee Shulman stand infront of the congregation during Temple Beth Ami's Rosh Hashanah service. Michele Lutes/The Signal
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Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, began on Friday, marking a start for a cascade of Jewish holidays and celebrations called the High Holy Days.  

Temple Beth Ami and the Valencia United Methodist Church are set to open their doors to the Santa Clarita Valley Jewish community to celebrate, reflect and look to the future beginning Friday.  

The schedule of the events is as follows: 

  • Sept. 15: Erev Rosh Hashanah at the Valencia United Methodist Church, 25718 McBean Parkway, beginning at 8 p.m.  
  • Sept. 16: Rosh Hashanah Morning at the Valencia United Methodist Church beginning at 10 a.m.  
  • Sept 17: Rosh Hashanah Morning at the Taschlich/Shofar outside at Bridgeport Marketplace, by California Pizza Kitchen. 
  • Sept 24: Kol Nidre at the Valencia United Methodist Church beginning at 8 p.m.  
  • Sept 25: Yom Kippur Morning at the Valencia United Methodist Church beginning at 10 a.m. 
  • Sept 25: Jonah at Temple Beth Ami, 23023 Hilse Lane, beginning at 5 p.m.  
  • Sept 25: Neilah at Temple Beth Ami beginning at 6 p.m. 
  • Children’s Services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur featuring Wendy Hersh will be available for both holidays at the Valencia Methodist Church beginning at 10 a.m.  

Erev Rosh Hashanah, also known as the night before Rosh Hashanah, falls on the evening before Rosh Hashanah. 

People exchange greetings and well-wishes in celebration. The phrase “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem” is used, which means, “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”  

Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, a 10-day period of reflection, repentance and renewal. 

Rosh Hashanah typically falls on the first and second days of the Jewish month of Tishrei, which usually occurs in September or early October according to the lunar calendar. It is a two-day holiday, observed for 48 hours. 

It is a time to reflect on the past year, seek forgiveness for sins and transgressions and make resolutions for self-improvement in the year ahead. It is seen as a time of judgment when God reviews the deeds of individuals and determines their fate for the coming year. 

“It’s definitely a lot more introspective,” said Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami. “It’s a lot more thoughtful, and intentional. We’re not just thinking about resolutions in ways that things we want to do for ourselves, but things we want to do to make the world better and really try to be realistic. Not just like, ‘Hey, I’d like to change something physically about myself,’ or, ‘How do I accomplish a goal that I have set for myself?’ but really, ‘Who am I and where am I in this world, and what am I doing with my life? What am I?’”  

A distinctive feature of these services is the sounding of the shofar, a ram’s horn, which is blown as a call to repentance and a symbol of awakening and renewal.  

“There’s something very powerful about that tradition because it reminds us that there are things that don’t change,” said Blazer.  

Kol Nidre is a significant and solemn prayer recited on the evening of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. 

The Kol Nidre prayer is not a prayer in the traditional sense but rather a legal declaration or formula. It is recited at the beginning of the Yom Kippur service and serves to annul or nullify certain vows and commitments that a person may have made to God during the previous year but was unable to fulfill. It is essential in allowing individuals to start the day with a clean slate and without the burden of unfulfilled obligations. 

“That’s a day of fasting on Yom Kippur,” said Blazer.  

It begins at sunset on the evening before and continues until nightfall on Yom Kippur day. 

Fasting is a means of spiritual purification and self-denial, allowing individuals to focus their thoughts on repentance and seeking forgiveness. 

It is customary to wear white clothing as a symbol of purity and spiritual renewal.  

Yom Kippur is a time for Jewish individuals to seek forgiveness from both God and fellow humans. 

Jonah is not commemorated as a Jewish holiday, but it holds significant moral and theological lessons within the Jewish tradition and is often read and studied, particularly during the afternoon service on Yom Kippur as it touches on themes of repentance and divine forgiveness. 

Neilah is the final and climactic service of Yom Kippur, marking the closing of the gates of Heaven after a day of fasting, prayer and repentance. It is a time of intense spiritual focus, symbolizing the last opportunity for individuals to seek divine forgiveness and express their deepest remorse for their sins. 

The sounding of the shofar at the conclusion of Neilah signals the end of Yom Kippur and the hope for a spiritually renewed and righteous year ahead. 

“It’s inspiring because you see people who you haven’t seen in several months,” said Blazer. “You may get to meet new people that you’ve never met and of course, it’s also bittersweet because there’s also always people that we’ve lost over the last year and we miss them. Oftentimes, it’s a holiday where we feel their loss and we mourn them, we mourn the fact that they’re not there. Most of it’s really great. There’s also new life and there’s people who have kids and grandkids that didn’t exist last year. So it’s always nice to check in when everyone’s together and become like one big family.” 

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