Approaching the High Holy Days can be a daunting experience, particularly for Jews who are not in the habit of participating year round in ritual practices.  For many people, attending second day of Rosh Hashanah can be a way in that is family friendly, low key, and intimate.

At Eitz Chayim we have crafted our own tradition for this day, which consists of a simple service led by Rabbi Liza Stern, followed by a highly interactive project involving people of all ages, then a potluck lunch.  After lunch we walk from our congregation on Magazine Street to the banks of the Charles River, where we gather around to say the traditional blessings and petitions for tashlich.  Tashlich means “cast off” in Hebrew and this ritual provides us with an opportunity to symbolically cast off the sins of the previous year by throwing bits of bread into flowing water.

Our morning projects have included making up plays about the (almost) sacrifice of Isaac (how would you have done it differently, or who would you have been?), creating a wimpel for our Torah (see below), and sharing personal hopes and dreams for the New Year.  All of our projects are light-hearted ways for friends as well as strangers to connect, and to deepen their understanding of what it means to self-reflect, and to greet the New Year with joy and sweetness.

Normally we have about 40-50 people in attendance, including children of all ages, Jews of varied levels of observance and all places in the rainbow, interfaith partners and friends.  Tickets are not required for this day, but registration is appreciated.  Everyone participates in the potluck by bringing a veggie/dairy dish to share.

Information about registering for this event, or for our other High Holy Day events can be found here: Eitz_Chayim_Events

Rosh Hashanah 5770 Day 2, Congregation Eitz Chayim – Photo: Stanley Sagov

On day two of Rosh Hashanah 5770, members of Congregation Eitz Chayim in Cambridge, MA, recorded their Jewish stories – family histories, genealogies, and other meaningful texts – on special Japanese mulberry paper and learned how to use drop spindles to spin strands of yarn from their paper sheets. Over the course of the year, they wove their yarns on a loom in the shul’s sanctuary and created a congregational Torah binder, or wimpel, completed in time for ritual use during Rosh Hashanah 5771.  The wimpel project was led by Catherine Tutter, a gifted artist and long-time member of Congregation Eitz Chayim.

The finished wimpel – Photo: George Bouret