Saturday, September 29, 2012

9/28/12: A Happy, Healthy, Sweet New Year To All!

“Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes” - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe. 

It has been over 5 years since I have been home for the Jewish high holidays, and despite the fact that so much has remained the same in my home town, so much has also changed, and quite dramatically I might add. Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) is the first of the major high holidays and I was fortunate enough to be able to spend it with my Uncle who I have not seen in a very long time. His schedule is so busy that I was grateful he could make it out to Palm Springs at all let alone for the New Year. The first meal of the holiday was spent at my grandparents house, and though the whole family could not be together, it was such a wonderful time. We all get so busy as we get older it gets increasingly harder to get everyone together at one time! 

My grandparents spent all day cooking the traditional holiday delights of brisket, potatoes, matzo ball soup, and, of course, apples and honey for a sweet new year, the house smelled like the holidays and brought back so many good memories from my childhood, and once my sister arrived home from work we set the table and then did what we Jews do best: Eat! After all of the blessings of course :-) 

My Bubby, Zayde, and me! 

My uncle in his comfort zone! The kitchen! 

Apples and Honey for a sweet new year! 

The men opening the meal with all the blessings! 

My table setting skills! 

Uncle Scoooooter and me :-) 
The meal was delicious and we all had a really wonderful time! The next night we had one more Rosh Hashanah meal with my dad and step mother, and though we were eating the same food, it almost tasted better the second time! 

Since Rosh Hashanah was spent with my dad's side of the family, Yom Kippur (the next holiday and one of the most Holy days in the Jewish year) was spent with my mom and grandmother. However, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. There are 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and in that interim I spent some great time with both families, spent time cooking with my sister (well attempting to bake that is), and my dog even added to some family excitement when he decided to get stuck behind some trees and bushes in my backyard forcing my sister to come to his rescue. Have I mentioned we are having a huge infestation of Black Widows so having him stuck in our mini jungle was a bit stressful! 

Ari decided to play in our backyard jungle 
Elana to the rescue! 

My cookie pop creations actually worked! 

After a relaxing 10 days post Rosh Hashanah, the day of atonement ( Yom Kippur) was upon us. To kick off the holiday my mother cooked a delicious pre fast feast, and I did my best to eat as much as possible so that I would survive the 25 hour fast that was soon to begin. I really can't describe how delicious my mom's soup made the house smell, but all I know is that when she cooks it we just know it is the holidays, and my dog knows he is in store for some very good treats (or Jew food as we like to tell him). 

Momma and the holiday table! 
When dinner was finished the fast had officially begun and my mom, grandmother, and I headed out to synagogue for Kol Nidre. Kol Nidre is an Aramaic declaration recited in the synagogue before the beginning of the evening service on every Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Though not a prayer, this legal formula and its ceremonial accompaniment have been charged with emotional undertones since the medieval period, creating a dramatic introduction to Yom Kippur on what is often dubbed "Kol Nidre night". It is written in Aramaic, not Hebrew. Its name is taken from the opening words, meaning "all vows". 

For me, the Kol Nidre, with its haunting tone and powerful delivery, is one of the most important aspects of Yom Kippur, and this is why I decided to go to my childhood synagogue instead of to Chabad despite the fact that I would have had a more religious experience with the latter which is what I am used to. It was a bit hard for me being back in my old Synagogue, however, because nothing was how I remembered it from the glory days of my childhood. When I was younger the seats would be filled to the bursting point on the high holidays, there would hardly be an empty space in the entire, gorgeously designed sanctuary, and our rabbi and cantor would command the audience with beautiful sounds and meaningful messages. Our synagogue was so renowned and popular that legends such as Frank Sinatra would frequent it often when he was visiting his home in Palm Springs, and our rabbi could boast a personal friendship with him. It was a wonderful environment to grow up in and I couldn't help but feel so sad at the state things are in now. All the families have left, the old men and women who watched me grow up are no longer living, I could count the people in the synagogue there were so few, it's become more reformed than anything (which to me is the most sad part), and the spark is completely gone from the place. I know things have to change over time, but this was sad to see. Regardless, I enjoyed, for the most part, the services that were held, I spent Yom Kippur night and the following late afternoon and evening atoning for all things I did in the past year that needed atoning for, and left refreshed with great hopes for a wonderful new year ahead. 

This high holiday season was particularly special as I was able to spend it with family and really say goodbye and put behind a huge chapter in my life (the chapter of growing up and living in the United States). I made my peace with the fact that this is no longer my home, that my family will always be my family, and I love them all very much, but my life is now 8,000 miles and a few continents away. As I begin this new year I can't wait to spend a little more time with my family and then get back to Israel where I will truly be shaping and fine tuning my new life away from home! My citizenship has come through, my plans for the next few years have been drawn out, my boyfriend and friends are all there waiting, and I can't wait to get back to my beautiful home and even more beautiful country! I will enjoy the heck out of these last 3 weeks at home, but I won't deny that I'm so anxious to get back to the bustle of Tel Aviv life! And really the greatest part is that only a few days after I return home Stephane comes back from Australia, and I can't even put into words how excited I am to see him! 

Until we meet again, ya chaverim <3 Shana Tova and Happy New Year to all! 

Jordana Simone 

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