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Jewish community celebrates new year

Rosh Hashana, which begins tonight, has area rabbis looking forward to helping the local and global communities.

September 12, 2007|By Jeremy Oberstein

The High Holidays, which begin at sundown tonight, are a time when many Jews look inward, reflecting on mistakes made in the past year and resolving to amend those in the year ahead.

But some synagogues are looking at global crises in their search for redemption during Rosh Hashana festivities this year.

Rabbi Richard Flom, lead rabbi at Burbank’s Temple Emanu El, will focus on Darfur, Hurricane Katrina and global warming during the celebration of year 5768.

“Tzedakah is our theme for the year,” Flom said, in reference to the Jewish concept of charity. “One of the themes of Rosh Hashana is how we can avert an evil decree from God. We do that by repentance, prayer and charity. We perform charity not to redeem ourselves from evil, but for redemption, for the good of us all.”

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Though Flom will also focus on local charities, such as the Burbank Temporary Aid Center and local food pantries, he plans to make the most of his opportunity in front of the 200 planned worshipers.

“This congregation has been very active,” he said. “People find [the global issues] to be more spiritually rewarding. I like to reinforce that and, at the same time, I want to expand people’s horizons.”

Rabbi Richard Schechter, at Glendale’s Temple Sinai, will also speak about global issues, but will tailor his comments around Tikkun Olam, a Hebrew phrase that means “repairing the world.”

“We’re coming up on five years since the conflict in Sudan started and we’ve talked about the atrocities — yet it continues. We have to keep talking about it, trying to act,” Schechter said. “Tikkun Olam is a universal value. Our mission as Jewish people and human beings is to repair a broken world. It has a moral component and a religious component.”

But not all area synagogues will be focusing on the ills of the world during the New Years celebration.

Temple Beth Emet’s Rabbi Mark Sobel will speak to a more localized form of tragedy.

The Burbank synagogue experienced a number of congregant deaths during the year, forcing the temple to grieve as one.

“The issue for us this year is the concept of loss, and how it feels to be alone,” Sobel said. “Because our synagogue had to experience death, we must ask: How can we as a community work together to make ourselves better, more holy?”

Sobel, who doubles as an eighth- and 11th-grade teacher at Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, expanded on the altruistic themes he sees as paramount to the High Holidays, which include next week’s Day of Atonement — Yom Kippur.

“One of the central prayers we will read on Yom Kippur — the Al Cheit — focuses on helping each other out,” Sobel said.

During the Al Cheit prayer, people confess in unison to a multitude of sins committed during the previous year.

“We didn’t commit all those sins, but in saying them all together, we are helping out the person next us who may have sinned.” Sobel said. “Because human life is precious to us all.”

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