Celebrating new beginnings

For the Hillel Foundation, a Jewish community at USF, there is a new beginning in what is now a different world as the group celebrates Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish year.

Rosh Hashanah services began Monday evening at the USF Embassy Suites and continue through Wednesday. Services are being held by the Temple Ohev Shalom.

Craig Maurer, vice president for the temple, said the nation?s tragedy will be on the minds of many in the Jewish community.

?People are probably more emotional this year,? he said.

Toby Zarolnick, a student from New Jersey, said the timing of Rosh Hashanah after last week?s attacks gives those in the Jewish community time to reflect.

?It?s a time of repentance,? she said. ?Especially now that everyone is trying to be a better person ? I?m glad Rosh Hashanah came when it did so we have time to pray.?

Student Mandi Stern said the arrival of the holiday at such a troubled time is comforting.

?You look at it like it?s a new start and a new beginning,? she said. ?We?ve all just got to stick together, and we all came together tonight to show we?re still united.?

Stern said part of the service was devoted to praying for those who lost their lives last Tuesday.

?All the events that occurred over the past week were hovering over everybody in the room,? she said. ?We?re all in it together.?

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of a meaningful and holy time in the Jewish year. This period ends with Yom Kippur, which is a time of atonement. Yom Kippur takes place this year Sept. 26-27. Stern said the holiday period is a very religious time for the Jewish community.

?I look at it as kind of a serious holiday,? she said. ?It?s our days to ask for forgiveness and such so it?s more serious than a ?Happy New Year.??

As with many religious groups, the Jewish community has regular security concerns even without the events of last week being taken into consideration. Police security was stationed at the service Monday.

Hillel member Nicky Spivak said the events of the past week are on everyone?s minds, but there is little concern that more security than normal is needed in upcoming events.

?I think every year during the Jewish holidays there is a heightened sense of security,? he said. ?This year is no different.?

Spivak said many Jewish congregations hire off-duty police officers during holiday services. He said he has no real security concerns and that acts of violence can happen anywhere.

?Just like any other segment (of the community), we?re all somewhat shocked,? he said. ?Hopefully, as a Jewish community, we can make it through the holiday.?

Hillel?s Bennie Cohen agreed with Spivak, saying security will be handled no differently than in the past. He said there is a lot of concern in the Hillel community as several members are from New York.

?We?ve all come together, and we all know we?re here for each other,? he said. ?We?re all looking on; we?re not going to look in the past.?

Services celebrating Rosh Hashanah will continue to be held by the Temple Ohev Shalom at the USF Embassy Suites today and Wednesday. On both days, the services will begin at 9:30 a.m.

Celebrations for Yom Kippur are also scheduled at the USF Embassy Suites and will be held Sept. 26-27.

Contact Rob Brannonat oraclerob@yahoo.com