[Blog] Celebrating the High Holy Days as a community

Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein
19 September 2017

As Liberal Jews around the UK prepare for our High Holy Days, this is a time for reflection. Mine begin by looking back to the summer and a holiday we enjoyed in Gozo, Malta – a beautiful island where the towns and villages were full of colour for a succession of Saints’ Days.

I witnessed the villagers all pitching in with their talents. Some decorating the local church with huge drapes; others erecting coloured lights, flags and banners along the streets; yet more making the fireworks that punctuated the evening celebrations with enormous explosions.

One Saturday we discovered that a new priest, born in the village, was holding his first mass that evening. We missed the service but, later at 10pm, joined hundreds of people of all ages in the square. Everyone was dressed for a simcha, and that is what it was, complete with the grandest kiddush I have ever been to. We were made to feel very welcome indeed.

The whole experience made me think of the power of community: many offering their talents for the benefit of all; generous hospitality; and people of all ages just enjoying being together, worshipping together and celebrating together.

Surely this is the aim of our own congregations as they gather in large numbers for the High Holy Days and Tishri Festivals. We might not get fireworks, but there are shofar blasts!

I believe it is the feeling of belonging to a larger than usual group that creates the special atmosphere we enjoy at this time. And as one year ends and a new one begins, when we have increased anxiety about so many events and trends in our society, country and the world…. we need the comfort and hope that comes from belonging to an historic and colourful community.

This is why we create congregations and celebrate festivals.

May the new year of 5778 bring to you and your community success and growth and in that community may you find meaning and consolation and hope.
Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein is president of Liberal Judaism. An extended version of this article appeared in the last issue of LJ Today.

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