A prayer shawl, shofar (ram’s horn) and prayer book. (Shutterstock)
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown on Wednesday night and ends at sundown on Friday night. For Jewish families around the world, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated in synagogue and with family, friends, and food. Throughout the diverse and wide-flung Jewish world, different cultures have adopted different Rosh Hashanah traditions, some influenced by their country’s culture, such as in Ethiopia, where the shofar tradition is restricted to the kessim, the village elders, or in Cuba, where 10 grapes are eaten at midnight. But what binds the Jewish people together during Rosh Hashanah is the fundamental importance of passing on traditions through food, togetherness, and prayer, as well as a longing to celebrate the next Rosh Hashanah in a rebuilt Jerusalem.
The French Jewish community is the largest in Europe and the third largest in the world. But even with such a strong community in France, over 10 percent of the French Jewish community has immigrated to Israel, largely in the last decade. Longing for Jerusalem is a part of their identity, as is true around the globe.
French Jews of North African descent follow a Rosh Hashanah seder (ritual, symbolic feast) in which various foods are presented on a plate, each to symbolize what Jews desire for the next year. It is traditional to recite a prayer over each food.
Foods of the traditional Rosh Hashana “seder.” (Shutterstock)
The foods include the traditional apples and honey for a sweet new year, leeks (karti in Hebrew, similar to karet, remove) and spinach (salka, similar to istalek, to disappear) to represent the removal and disappearance of one’s enemies; dates, so that one grows as high as palm trees; squash (kra, to break) so that unfavorable verdicts are broken; sesame and pomegranate, so one’s merits grow as numerous as seeds; fish, to multiply like fish in the sea; and lamb’s head, so the people of Israel are the head of the nations.
A typical Rosh Hashanah dish in France is quiche à l’oignon, an onion quiche, emerging from a traditional French quiche – sans pork, of course. French holiday cooking has also been influenced by its North African immigrants who brought harissa, cumin, and honey, as well as spices from their original lands of Marrakesh, Oran, and Tunis, including anise, olive oil, rose water, and pine nuts.
Rosh Hashanah in Ethiopia is observed for one day, in comparison to the two-day chag (holiday) observed in the rest of the Jewish diaspora. According to Adam Abrams in a recent JNS article, outside of Ethiopia, there are four prayer services for Rosh Hashanah, beginning after sunrise. But in Ethiopia, there are three prayer services, including one before dawn, giving Rosh Hashanah its Amharic (Ethiopia’s official language) name “Brenha Serkan,” which translates to “the rising of dawn.” Rosh Hashanah is also known as “Zikir,” which is similar to the Hebrew word “zachor,” remember. In Ethiopia, like elsewhere, it is traditional to wear white clothing and have large feasts, often with lamb – the most expensive meat available.
Kessim, religious leaders of the Ethiopian Jews. (RnDmS / Shutterstock.com)
Although Ethiopian Jewish traditions are often distinct from that of rabbinic traditions, many of the religious rituals and customs of the Ethiopian Jewish population are almost identical to the type of Judaism practiced in the period of the Second Temple, told researcher and professor Dr. Yossi Ziv to Breaking Israel News.
The elders (kessim) in Ethiopian villages blow the shofar and are the only ones capable of reading Jewish texts in the ancient Ge’ez dialect. They instruct the entire village on how to prepare for the holiday, share Biblical stories from ancient scripts, and “emphasize our long-held aspiration to celebrate Rosh Hashanah ‘next year in Jerusalem.”
Indian Jewish communities have existed since ancient times, although a majority of them have made aliyah, immigrated to Israel. The B’nei Israel descend from persecuted, lost tribes of Israel who settled in modern-day Mumbai; the Cochin Jews descend from the Portuguese inquisition; and the Baghdadis hail from Iraq.
Recently, a community in India known as the Bnei Menashe, has claimed descent from one of the ten lost tribes of Israel. According to Michael Freund, founder of Shavei Israel, the history, traditions, and customs of the Bnei Menashe convinced him of “the validity of their claim that they are in fact descendants of a lost tribe of Israel,” he told Breaking Israel News. They have expressed, like other Jews in exile, a deep yearning to return to Israel after 2,700 years.
Bnei Menashe celebrate Hanukkah in India. (Shavei Israel)
Because of their relative isolation from the mainstream Jewish population, Indian Jewish communities have been largely influenced by Indian tradition, displayed through traditional Rosh Hashanah foods. According to culture heritage blog AntiquityNOW, “Jewish-Indian cooking in general is unique and differs according to the community.” Lamb and goat is often ordered from a farm, slaughtered, and split amongst families to make biryani, an Indian dish of spiced rice, saffron, and lamb.
The traditional chicken dish served is mahmoora, chicken cooked with tomatoes, spices, almonds, and raisins, served on a bed of pilau rice. Milk halwa is another traditional Rosh Hashanah dish of the B’nei Israel, similar to Israeli sahlab. Women traditionally wear colorful saris (Indian floral gowns) for Rosh Hashanah services, while men wear custom-made shirts, pants, and vest suits. B’nei Israel have carried these traditions from India to Israel when they have immigrated.
After Fidel Castro came to power, almost 95 percent of Cuba’s Jews fled, as it was too difficult to maintain religious traditions. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Jewish life is being slowly rebuilt in Havana, where two-thirds of Jewish Cubans live. Rabbis from South and Central America came to teach the Jews of Cuba about religious traditions, and thus their holidays reflect an interesting mix of Jewish traditions.
Temple Beth Shalom, built in 1952, is a synagogue located in the Vedado neighborhood of downtown Havana, Cuba. (Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com)
Cubans have a tradition of eating grapes for good luck on New Years, so the Jews of Cuba have adapted their Rosh Hashanah traditions accordingly. According to Jennifer Stempel in The Nosher, at the stroke of midnight the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Cuban Jews enjoy 12 grapes, one for each month. “According to folklore, this practice stems from Cuba’s Spanish roots. Spanish grape growers may have instituted this tradition when they were faced with an overabundance of harvest, and needed to offload some grapes. With everyone in the community enjoying grapes, the grape farmers were certainly enjoying a sweet start to the new year.”
In Israel, Rosh Hashanah is a two-day holiday where, like during Shabbat, businesses are closed. Religious Jews attend lengthy synagogue services and festivities also center on the home, where festive meals are prepared for family and friends. During the week prior to Rosh Hashanah, thousands of Jews flow to midnight selichot prayers held at the Western Wall and in synagogues, requesting forgiveness and expressing repentance for one’s sins.
Like elsewhere throughout the world, the shofar is blown and it is customary to dip apples in honey to symbolize a sweet new year. Mystics say that on Rosh Hashanah, the three short wails of the shofar, the shevarim, represent the times of the Garden of Eden, before sin. Teruah, the staccato sound of nine short blasts, is the mournful sound of exile, and tekiah, the long, straight sound is the sound of the Messiah on his way, a return to Paradise and Messianic times.
A religious Jew blows a shofar at the Western Wall. September 7, 2012. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Traditional foods include honey cake and round challot, braided sweet bread, which symbolizes the yearly cycle and circle of life. It is also customary to perform tashlich, shaking out one’s pockets and throwing breadcrumbs into an open body of water to symbolically cast away one’s sins.
Breaking Israel News would like to wish our readers from around the world a Shanah Tova U’Metuka, a good and sweet new year, from wherever you may be celebrating!
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.