Sunday, August 30, 2009

Elul Project #2 - Remembrances of High Holidays Past

My thanks to Rosalea Fisher for contributing her reflections on the High Holidays. You are cordially invited to send me yours!

When I think of my childhood during the High Holidays, I think of our large synagogue in Philadelphia. It really was a synagogue and a JCC combined. Every week I played basketball downstairs in the gym in my high sneakers and attended Shabbat Jr. Congregation services upstairs.

On the High Holidays, I remember sitting in a very large auditorium because our family could not afford the cost of the seats in the main sanctuary. I sat next to my parents, often helping my Mother find her place on the page. She had recently learned to read Hebrew and always wanted to know where we were on the page. I remember fasting from a very early age, years before becoming a Bat Mitzvah.

If I close my eyes now, I can hear the choir singing majestically, almost angelically, behind a screen. I always wondered how they were able to sing all day as they fasted. Those were the days of long operatic-style performance pieces scattered throughout the long service. Sometimes I even lost my place during those moments and was unable to help my mother find hers. As a teenager, I often congregated with hundreds of other young people in front of the synagogue visiting with my friends, perhaps spending less time with my parents.

On Yom Kippur we walked home (we lived two blocks from our Temple) in the afternoon and set the table for our family break-the-fast dinner. My sister was in charge of having everything ready when we returned home. Then my Mother and I walked back to Temple to pray together until sundown and the end of the service. We came home to a dairy dinner with my family - sometimes blintzes, sometimes lox and scrambled eggs, sometimes tuna salad, always a large glass of orange juice. I remember eating just a little bit and becoming satisfied very quickly. A little piece of bobka, and that was it for me.

Being with my Mother in synagogue, listening to the choir, praying together, and finally enjoying our break-the-fast meal with my family. What more could a young Jewish girl ask for - nothing.

Rosalea S. Fisher

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