Rosh Hashanah

by | Sep 16, 2019 | Uncategorized

Dear Readers,

While the holidays feel a bit tardy this year (you know how they’re never on time…), it is still hard to believe that it’s the season again for apples and honey and shofar calls and sermons and holiday meals.

And, for reflections. We asked some folks for their thoughts on the holiday and what the New Year ahead looks like for them. What, we asked, is on the horizon? Their responses are enlightening, heart-felt, fun, and thoughtful and start on page 18.

Five hacks for the best Rosh Hashanah ever is a light piece that suggests ways to have fun…and spark meaningful conversations during the holiday season.

This section also offers a delicious chicken recipe (page 24), reviews of Jewish New Year children’s books (26) and a complete listing of area holiday services that was compiled by Shalom Tidewater (page 21).

The Jewish News staff hopes you have a wonderful, healthy, happy, and most importantly, a peaceful New Year.

L’Shanah Tovah!

Terri Denison


For the New Year

Inspiration at great heights

Sandra Porter Leon

Rocky Mountain Chai has new meaning after attending the Shabbat Service at the top of Eagle Nest Mountain in Colorado. For years my dear friend and Norfolk-native Debbie Stein Levy has asked our family to attend this special service, led by her daughter-in-law Michelle Kohn Levy who is also the Cantor at Bnai Vail Synogogue. What a joyful experience!

Although most of the Vail congregants rode the 10-minute gondola ride from Lionshead Village, several of us hiked the meandering Berry Picker Trail to a destination that locals call the Wedding Deck—a clearing with panoramic views of snow-capped mountains, swaying Aspen trees, and cumulous clouds close enough to touch.

As we approached the precipice, we could hear Michelle’s angelic voice, as well as the music of the Nashville bluegrass band Nefesh Mountain, whose soulful harmonies blended with fiddles and mandolins included folksy ensembles, as wells as the familiar Adon Olam. Clad in cowboy hats and jeans, the band members with the help of Rabbi Joel Newman encouraged audience participation with sing-alongs and even dancing in the grassy aisles, but never allowed the informal setting to interfere with the meaningful service.

In the midst of the month of Elul, I remember this breathtaking experience 10,350 feet above, grateful for how the power of prayer, song, community, and our glorious environment nourishes the soul before the coming New Year. If you are near Vail Colorado the first week of July or August, don’t miss this special service.


An empty nest

Rebecca Tall

This New Year is going to feel a bit different for us. For the first time in 18 years our nest is empty. That’s because we just sent our triplets off to college for freshman year.

Many people have asked us what it’s like to become empty nesters overnight. It’s funny because we got the opposite question over 18 years ago when we went from 0 to 3 overnight. The answer is the same—it’s a huge change! Just like then—there are good days and bad, there’s crying and tears, there’s sleepless nights and fear of the unknowns. But, there’s also smiles and laughs, and being thankful for the blessings we’ve been given —and a big change in the amount of laundry and the volume level in our house!

While this New Year will be different and the empty nest will take a lot of getting used to, it won’t be boring. We already took a vacation and our weekends are filling fast with Parents Weekends, lacrosse games, and long overdue projects in the house. The empty nest isn’t as quiet as we thought it would be!


Refreshing perspective

Congresswoman Elaine Luria

As a Jewish woman, I am lucky to have two new year celebrations—the Gregorian calendar and the Jewish observance of Rosh Hashanah. These days are the time to reflect on how you can be a better person and be a stronger part of your community. Both a time of reflection and optimism, Rosh Hashannah is a time for me to refresh my perspective and prepare for the year ahead.



U.S Navy self-assessments and Jewish reflections

Herm Shelanski

I retired from the United States Navy last year and this Rosh Hashanah, 5780, I end my first full year as a veteran and civilian. It all takes getting used to, you know simple things like, what shirts go with the pants I picked out, since I don’t put on the same “uniform” everyday— and not having morning Colors and Flag raising to start the day.

My last assignment in the Navy was as the Naval Inspector General, and one of my main tasks was to assess and inspect our Naval Forces. The first part of that process was to request the unit being inspected to do a self-assessment. Though the Navy doesn’t really realize it, it is a very Jewish concept based upon Rosh Hashanah. As Jews, we look back and reflect, how well did I do last year in living up to the values and principles of Judaism in my daily life? And, when I fell short or failed, was I able to realize it and make amends and grow from my experience? Did I meet the minimum requirements or did I do more, did I aspire toward a higher concept and attempt to reach the lofty goals of righteousness and Tikkun Olam?

In the Navy, a unit’s score on the inspection, despite falling short in certain areas was never a failure, if, in their self-assessment they realized those areas that needed work and set in place a realistic plan to do better in the next year.

And, so it is for me and my preparation for Rosh Hashanah 5780, a good self-assessment of last year’s living, in preparation for the “Lord of all Inspector’s” 5779 inspection results. And of course, my follow-up plan from that assessment for better performance in 5780, now as a civilian, and all those expectations and responsibilities that come from being a Jewish citizen of the United States of America.


Praying for peace

Elayne Axel

I pray that our leaders choose tolerance over hate.


Gratitude, memories, and hope

Beth and Nathan Jaffe

As we begin to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Nathan and I find ourselves reflecting on many things. These two holidays almost always fall ON or around my birthday which is the same day as my father’s birthday. Year after year, I find myself sitting in synagogue with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, as I think about about how fortunate we are to still be celebrating simchas with both of my parents.

On our birthdays, Dad and I usually talk about what we wish for in the year to come. This year, both Nathan and I pray that we can live in a world where there is less hatred, prejudice, and fear. The mass shootings in our country have become the new normal, which in and of itself is a scary statement. Antisemitism is on the rise and there is a pervasive feeling of anxiety in our everyday lives that never existed before.

As recent first time grandparents, we try to envision a better world for our beautiful granddaughter, Carrie, to grow up in—a world where she doesn’t live in fear when she goes to school…a world where there is less hatred, bigotry, and more acceptance and love.

The Jewish holidays are also a meaningful time for Nathan because it brings back heartfelt memories of his parents, Bernie and Lee Jaffe (of blessed memory). They always made the High Holidays a special time to celebrate with family and friends and reminded their children of the value of community.

It’s a time to reflect on their legacy and hope for a better tomorrow.


Seeing the good in others

Sarah Lipman

Since we moved to Norfolk from New Jersey four years ago, we have had a lot of incredible people come in and out of our lives. We are hoping that everyone will continue to only see the good in others this year, and come together to reach amazing heights as one community. I hope my daughters and their friends have a good school year, and the construction of the new Mikvah goes well and smooth. Looking forward to a new and joyful year ahead!


Changing and challenging

Rabbi Marc Kraus

When I was a child, I imagined that adults reached adulthood and stayed there. Now I reflect each year on how much I have grown. The strange truth is that we never stop changing unless we stop challenging ourselves. What new experience will you pursue this year?



Hope and optimism

Rachel and John Feigenbaum

John and I anticipate every new year with hope and optimism. In general terms, we hope for good health and a year with more blessings than difficulties. And, as we grow up and older, those hopes take on more specific ideas.

Our family recently visited Ben at his new apartment in New York. We are excited for this next stage of life for him. He is officially “independent” and we are so proud and happy for him. Our conversations are more along the lines of “Should I choose an EPO or PPO insurance plan,” or “Can you help me pick out a rug for my bedroom?” It’s new territory for us, but he’s navigating just fine. Just as soon as we left New York, I was headed to Lexington to move Abby into her sorority house for her second year at college. There’s the anxieties of a new year, new professors and hopes that she will flourish in the months and years ahead. Sandwiched between these two as they get themselves set up, is our youngest, Aiden. He is the easy going third child who just started his senior year of high school. So, while those two have been in his shoes, it’s always a different experience. He will choose his own college path and find his fit (and hopefully not too far away from home).

Aside from what occupies our personal lives, we sincerely hope for a community and world that can focus on treating each other as they wish to be treated, extend a helping hand where needed, and be grateful for everything that brings a smile to our face and hearts.


Sharing laughs and tears

Erin Foleck Portnoy

Eleven years ago Felix and I moved to this area and married two weeks later at Beth El. Time moves so quickly and change is inevitable. Nieces now in university, a nephew starting to drive and our own daughters in first and fourth grade becoming more independent as each day passes.

Transitions can be hard, but having our amazing family close and great friends to share laughs, sometimes tears, and make memories with, are what is important to me.


Wins, dialogue, and joy

Betty Ann Levin

I fervently hope that Virginia Tech can pull it together and be back to our winning ways this football season!

My hope for our country is that, with positive dialogue and proactive action, we can bring an end to hateful rhetoric and acts of violence.

I hope that our community comes together to find joy, as we celebrate our strengths and plan for our future—a thriving Jewish Tidewater for our children and generations to come.

Shanah Tovah!