Gina Black, of Sylvania, shows loaves of challah she baked for the holiday.
Rabbi Evan Rubin of Congregation Etz Chayim in Toledo demonstrates a shofar made from a goat’s horn.
Apple slices dipped into honey. Pomegranates, sliced carrot coins, heads of garlic or cabbage, and black-eyed peas. Round braided breads.
These are just a few of the symbolic foods eaten at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, which begins at sundown on Sunday. In Hebrew, the word rosh means “head;” ha means “the,” and shanah means “year.”
Rosh Hashanah is considered to be the birthday of the world, a commemoration of “the time that the world was created,” said Rabbi Evan Rubin of Congregation Etz Chayim, the Orthodox synagogue in Toledo.
Jews around the world will attend services over the holiday, which continues through Tuesday. And they will celebrate the beginning of the year 5776 on the Jewish calendar with a variety of traditions. Many of these are food-related and are meant to help usher in a sweet new year.
Rosh Hashanah preparations at Congregation Etz Chaim in Toledo. Some of the items baked included marble, apple spice, honey, pumpkin spice, and apple cakes, as well as snickerdoodles and confetti cookies.
Among the traditions, foods that are small and plentiful are prepared, carrying hopes that individual merits and blessings will be bountiful. Foods that are round are reminders of continuity and the completed cycle of a year.
Bakers at Etz Chayim, 3853 Woodley Rd., prepared an array of baked goods for the holiday. “We serve this at the break in services,” which continue for several hours, administrator Elsa Leveton said.
The “kitchen mavens,” as Mrs. Leveton called them, spent days making cakes (apple spice, honey, marble, and pumpkin) and cookies (chocolate chip, chocolate nut, confetti, orange, and snickerdoodles). “Some of the honey cakes are old family recipes,” Phyllis Wittenberg said as she and Andrea Lublin rolled balls of cookie dough by hand.
Gina Black, who teaches in the synagogue’s religious school, baked loaves of challah, a braided egg-enriched bread. Two long challot (the plural, pronounced hah-LOTE) are traditionally served each week with the Friday night Shabbat (sabbath) dinner. But at Rosh Hashanah the loaves are formed into rounds, and they are sweetened.
“I sprinkled cinnamon and sugar” onto the breads before baking them, Miss Black said.
Congregants also will dip slices of apple into honey. “We get different flavors of honey,” such as clover, orange, and wildflower, Marcia Grossman said. Synagogue gift shops sell special apple and honey dish sets for home use.
Cantor Ivor Lichterman of Congregation B’nai Israel in Sylvania shows a shofar.
On Tuesday, Chabad Toledo hosted Rosh Hashanah Ready, a chance for women to be together while preparing foods for the holiday. The menu consisted of whole wheat and white challot, a honey-garlic marinade intended for chicken, balsamic-maple salad dressing, an end-of-summer zucchini kugel or casserole, and apple turnovers.
The women each took home a portion of each dish for family celebration.
The religious traditions of Rosh Hashanah include the mitzvah — a commandment or requirement — to hear the blowing of a shofar, a ram’s horn, during services.
The shofar is a tie to the biblical story of Abraham’s taking his son Isaac, at God’s command, to be sacrificed to demonstrate Abraham’s faith, “an event that is said to have taken place on Rosh Hashanah,” Rabbi Rubin said. In the story, an angel intervened and Isaac’s life was spared, with a ram substituted for the child.
Four sounds are traditionally blown on the shofar: tekiyah, which is one blast; shevarim, three broken staccato sounds; teruah, a wailing consisting of usually nine staccato sounds in succession; and tekiyah gedolah, one long sound that is generally held for as long as the previous three put together.
Cantor Ivor Lichterman of Congregation B’nai Israel, 6525 Sylvaina Ave., Sylvania, the Conservative synagogue, said “some people get a kick out of holding it as long as they can.”
Rosh Hashanah is the start of the High Holy Days, and is followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. There is fasting and prayer on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
A High Holy Days story is that God inscribes each person’s name and fate into the Book of Life at Rosh Hashanah, and at Yom Kippur the book is sealed. The sound of the shofar, then, is intended “to warn us that judgment is upon us, that God is watching,” Rabbi Rubin said.
A family service Monday at 1:45 p.m. at Temple Shomer Emunim, 6453 Sylvania Ave., Sylvania, the Reform synagogue, is designed to be child-friendly and will include a shofar choir welcoming members to blow their own shofarot.
This will be followed by Tashlich, a symbolic casting-off of sins by tossing bread crumbs into water — in this case, the lake behind the Jewish Community Center in Sylvania — while reciting penitential prayers. Tashlich is usually performed on the first day of the new year.
Chabad Toledo’s Tashlich service is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the Bais Menachem Mendel-Chabad House of Toledo, 2728 King Rd. B’nai Israel and Etz Chayim will have Tashlich together at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 20, at the Jewish Community Center lake.
A traditional song that is particularly poignant at Rosh Hashanah is the hymn, sung in Hebrew, “Avinu Malkeinu:” “Our Father, Our King.”
“We beseech God, our father, to have mercy on us,” Cantor Lichterman said.
“God is merciful and compassionate,” he said, “and we trust in that.”
Contact Mary Bilyeu at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-725-6155.
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