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Rosh Hashanah start of High Holy Days

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Sept. 16, 2012 at 4:16 a.m.
Updated Sept. 17, 2012 at 4:17 a.m.

Rabbi Anna Beroll, of Austin, stands at the bimah before Rosh Hashanah services at Temple B'nai Israel on Main Street in Victoria on Sunday. The Jewish New Year service was Beroll's first service at B'nai Israel, Victoria's oldest Jewish congregation.

At sundown on Sunday, Victoria's Jewish congregation commenced the New Year with a new rabbi.

Rabbi Anna Beroll, of Austin, strolled through the aisles of Temple B'Nai Israel on Sunday night, greeting unfamiliar faces with handshakes and smiles.

"I'm excited to get to know the community and for them to get to know me," Beroll, 33, said. "I just want to be authentic to who I am ... it's an exciting start to a New Year."

While a 4-piece choir rehearsed songs in the back corner of the temple for Sunday's Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, service, members filled the pews and embraced friends they hadn't seen since the previous year.

With only about 60 Jewish families in the Crossroads, the congregation is well acquainted.

"It certainly is our family," said Marc Schwartz, of Hallettsville. "There's a lot of tradition here tonight."

Rosh Hashanah kicks off High Holy Days in the Jewish faith, a 10-day period of reflection and repentance before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement on Sept. 25.

Schwartz explained that High Holy Days, also known as the Days of Awe, are one of the holiest times of year in the Jewish faith alongside Passover, which usually falls in the middle of spring.

During the 10 days of repentance from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, Jewish believers will ask forgiveness from those they may have wronged, and atone for sins committed throughout the year.

"The big thing on Rosh Hashanah is that we ask for forgiveness, so that we can be inscribed in the Book of Life. This is when God decides it," said Dr. Gary Branfman, a member of Temple B'nai. "You want to start the New Year with a clean slate by seeking forgiveness from sins already committed, and those we will inevitably commit the next year. Catholics do the confession every Sunday, we do it once a year as a congregation."

Each year, Rosh Hashanah commences on the first two days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, or the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar.

Branfman is traditionally the congregation's annual shofar blower, an instrument made of ram's horn that must be blasted in specific pitches to open the New Year, Branfman said.

"Rosh Hashanah is sometimes also called Yom Teruah, which means, Day of the Shofar Blast," he said. "It's a commandment. You have to hear the shofar blast to start the New Year."

Beroll said High Holy Days also celebrate and acknowledge that this would have been the time of year when God created the world.

Though Sunday's service is intended to be joyous, the days following cling to a doleful orientation.

"It's not really a celebration; it's more reflective," Beroll said. "It's a somber holiday ... and it sets the tone for the new season."

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