Beginning at sunset tonight (September 28th, 2011), Jews from across Tampa Bay will gather at Congregation Beth Shalom to begin celebration of the High Holy Day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Traditionally ushered in with apples dipped in honey, Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, or Yamim Noraim (the “Days of Awe”), and is followed ten days later by Yom Kippur, the “day of atonement.”
The Mishnah (Judaism’s primary book of Jewish legal theory) refers to Rosh Hashanah as the “day of judgment,” and it is believed that God opens the Book of Life on this day and begins to decide who shall live and who shall die. Thus, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur provide an opportunity for Jews to pray, seek forgiveness from God and one other, and focus on improving themselves in the year to come.
On Rosh Hashanah, Jews traditionally gather in synagogues like Congregation Beth Shalom for extended services that follow the liturgy contained in a mahzor, a special prayerbook used specifically during the Days of Awe. At specific times throughout the service, a shofar (a ram’s horn), is traditionally blown. The shofar has biblical origins in the Book of Exodus, when the ancient Israelites were summoned to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. The mitzvah (commandment) to hear the shofar, deemed a literal and spiritual “wake-up call,” is special to this time of year.
Congregation Beth Shalom, affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, was founded in 1957, with the congregation initially meeting in private homes. Two years later it moved to its first real home on Coachman Road. Eventually its membership outgrew that location, so in 1977 the property on S. Belcher Road was purchased, with a new synagogue, dedicated in 1992, replacing the original building. The late Rabbi Kenneth Bromberg was rabbi during these early years of growth and development.
Today, this enduring Jewish community, led by Rabbi David Weizman who joined the synagogue in 2002, has almost 300 families now attending regularly. Congregation Beth Shalom offers early services every Friday at 6:30 p.m., and every Shabbat morning, with Minyan held on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday mornings. A Family Shabbat dinner is held the first friday night of the month, with Shabbat youth services and birthday celebrations held monthly. The synagogue offers adult education programs with challenging topics such as the study of Talmud, conversational Hebrew, discussion groups on current issues and cantillation for Haftorah. Also, the Wanderers is a long-standing group in the synagogue that studies in the homes of different congregants each month.
Additionally, Beth Shalom has instituted a Family Workshop Series which includes hands-on activities, as well as a relaxed approach to learning that invites congregants of all ages to participate. Past topics include the observance and meaning of Shabbat, kashrut, Pesach rituals, and life-cycle events. These sessions are led by Rabbi Weizman and his wife, Rabbi Danielle Upbin.
For more information about Congregation Beth Shalom or Rosh Hashanah services, visit:
1325 South Belcher Road
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