Beginning later this month, the members of the Adath Yeshurun congregation in Aiken will observe the most important holidays for Jewish people throughout the world – Rosh Hashanah, the new year; and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Together, they comprise the High Holy Days. Rosh Hashanah serves as a time of repentance and also as judgement day, when Jews believe their fate for the coming year is recorded.
This fate is then sealed on Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the Jewish year. Those who have properly repented for their sins will be granted a good year. It is a time of introspection, solemnity and prayer.
Rosh Hashanah will begin at the synagogue on Sunday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m., followed by services the following two days commencing at 10 a.m. each morning. The Yom Kippur service will begin Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. and will continue the next morning at 10 a.m. Those wishing be part of the services are welcome to attend.
Bill Schuster, the synagogue's new president, said the High Holidays evoke a complex set of feelings and memories of past celebrations with family and friends – some of them who have passed on.
"These thoughts of lost loved ones while contemplating one’s own fate and worthiness to be granted a good year ahead, engenders a sense of humility, emotion and spirituality not experienced at any other time throughout the year,” said Schuster.
The cornerstone for Adath Yeshurun, which is located at 154 Greenville St. in downtown Aiken, was placed in 1925 and the synagogue opened later that year to celebrate the High Holy Days.
Some 94 years later, the synagogue remains a center for worship, observance of life-cycle events and fellowship for the Jewish community of Aiken and the surrounding areas.
Adath Yeshurun is a lay-led congregation, but for the High Holidays, the members bring in a student rabbi each year. Jacob Leizman, a second-year rabbinical student from New Rochelle, N.Y, will conduct the services this year.
"The Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur timeframe known as the Days of Awe, are a time to fully devote myself to reflecting on how I operate in the world," Leizman, 26, said "This year, I’m excited and humbled to join Adath Yeshurun as student rabbi where we’ll pray, study and reflect together for the High Holy Days. Shanah tovah – wishing a 'good year' to all in Aiken."
Judith Evans a long-time Aiken resident, often speaks of the Jewish Bible at the synagogue and also in the community. She is a Holocaust survivor, rescued from Germany as a child before she settled in Palestine and later immigrated to America.
"This is a time to reflect on our relationships with people," Evans said. "It's very important to work on them – to look deep in your heart if you're angry and to forgive when you've been hurt."
The Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services in Aiken and throughout the world will include the sharp, piercing sounds of the shofar – a ram's horn. The shofar dates back thousands of years and remains a valued part of the services as a clarion call in welcoming the new year.
It is fitting that the new year begins with such a inspiring call. Jewish people resolve to do better in how they conduct themselves - apologizing to those wronged while seeking forgiveness from God with hope of being granted a good year ahead. It is a tradition that has been practiced by Jewish people for centuries as it will in this community at the end of this month.