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Pomegranates, honey and apples

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, the Perth Jewish community knows how lucky we are here in WA to be able to celebrate together.

“We are very aware that we are possibly the only city in the world where services during this important month can be held in our synagogues as a community,” says Helen Bryant of the Temple David Religion School.

“As in most faith communities, being able to celebrate together is an important aspect of Jewish life. Apart from our small numbers of Jews in Perth, most Jews will be celebrating in nuclear families and via electronic media services.”

There will be activities at Temple David Progressive Synagogue from the evening of Friday 18 September to Sunday 20 September.

“This is our New Year. This year we celebrate the year 5781 which represents time after the creation of the world. We have four New Years — one for the trees, one for the months, one for the animals and this one, which counts the years.”

The Jewish or Hebrew calendar is a lunar–solar calendar that determines the dates of religious observances and agricultural festivals.

“The month before Rosh HaShanah is Elul, when we prepare ourselves for the coming year. The shofar, a ram’s horn, is blown each day of the month. It has a strange sound but is evocative of reawakening, of reckoning and of returning.

“During our morning prayer circle Rabbi Adi Cohen blew the shofar. Usually everyone has a turn at blowing the shofar but this year, due to Covid-19, we all just listened.”

Rosh HaShanah, like all Jewish festivals, is associated with symbolic foods. Apples and honey represent a sweet and fruitful new year, as does a round and sweet challah (special Shabbat bread). The seeds of pomegranates symbolise all the good deeds that will be performed in the coming year.

“New Year always means lots of activities at the Temple David Religion School. This year the school decorated New Year cards for their families, made their own challah cloths as well as apple muffins, and listened to the story of Jonah, which is told during the afternoon of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) when there is a 25 hour total Fast 10 days after Rosh HaShanah.

“We also spent time on individual Cheshbon HaNefesh, which is the accounting of our soul. This means thinking about what we have done in the past year and assessing these deeds.

“Could we have done better? Did we ‘miss the mark’? Were we the best person we could possibly be? Did we realise our true potential? Even our youngest students were able to vocalise/ represent through pictures what was good and what was not so good, and where there is room for personal improvement.”

Rosh HaShanah begins in the evening with a synagogue service and is followed by special family dinners, at which honey and apples take pride of place representing the wish for a sweet and fruitful new year. The next day there is a morning service which at Temple David Synagogue is followed by a light communal lunch.

“We wish everyone in the OMI community Shanah Tova, a good year for all!”

Page reviewed 20 October 2020