08 October 2008

Erev Yom Kippur

Tonight is the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement for Jewish people around the world. It is the one day that I find even the most secular of Jews pay some kind of attention to. Those of us who don't do a very good job of practicing Judaism during the rest of the year, try to (at the very least) make a point of going to synagogue during the High Holy Days, pray for forgiveness, perhaps fast for 24 hours, mourn our dear ones who have passed, and most important of all to me, forgive others. It's the one day of the year that we force ourselves to reflect, medidate, and rededicate ourselves to what we find important, holy, and moral.

Tonight Mark and I will be attending Kol Nidre services at the Congregation Beth Simchat Torah at the Jacob Javitz Center in New York City (Yes, Mark is Catholic, but he likes the music and appreciates all religious rituals. So do I. I often go to Catholic mass with him on Sundays). To me, Kol Nidre is the most beautiful, mournful melody of the entire jewish prayer repertoire. It brings me back to some of the happiest days of my childhood - the days where I would walk to shul with my father, just the two of us, and stand with him in line with the other men who quietly and devoutly prayed. I would mimick them as I bowed, rocked back and forth, and chanted to the sacred melodies in hope that I too would get to talk to G-d. It was the one time I preferred being with my father, rather than joining my mother and the other women in the back of the sanctuary, who quietly gossiped and scolded their children. I felt as though I was part of something important then, and my father made me feel extra special by allowing me to stand with him and the men.

Yom Kippur is always emotional for me, as it forces me to look inward, come to terms with my faults, my flaws, mistakes, humble myself and hope that I will be forgiven by those I have hurt. It's also a time where I deeply connect with my family members who have passed - my father, my mother, my grandparents, my uncles and aunts, and the many friends I have lost over the years. I 'fast' so I am not distracted and so I can find a deeper spiritual understanding of these things - loss, life, death, and gratitude (okay, I also fast so I can take off a few pounds. I'll ask for forgiveness about that too).




This morning I stopped at Russ and Daughters to pick up the food items I will need for tomorrow evening's "break fast," as all of the jewish shops will be closed tomorrow. Russ and Daughters is one of the last remaining kosher food establishments from the old jewish quarter of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It's a 4-generation family owned business that has been around since the turn of the 20th century. And it has some of the best smoked fish, lox, herring, and other delicious kosher foods in the city.



People were simultaneously pushing, fighting, hugging, kibitzing, exchanging recipes, arguing about last night's debate, finagling, catching up, and then dancing. Dancing??? Yes. Mr. Russ, in all of his proud and happy fashion, organized a Klezmer band performance in order to entertain his loyal holiday patrons. I swear it was like living on the shtetl.

One of the Russ daughters wished everyone a Happy New Year and thanked them for their years of patronage.

Here comes the Klezmer band.

This woman sang a beautiful old yiddish folk song. I admit at that point I had a little lump in my throat.



The band was in full swing and attracting onlookers on Houston Street.

Preparations the next day for "break fast"

12 comments:

Ben said...

I loved the pictures of Russ and Daughters. I never really understood exactly what Yom Kippur was about. You really took me there, I want to go to synangogue sometime....

Sharon M. said...

Beautiful post Stephanie! May you have a blessed Yom Kippur!
Sharon

Jacey said...

How interesting !!

Wow ! What a crowd ! That was neat that you were taking a picture inside and on the other end it appears an employee is taking a picture of the crowded shop also. That was also really neat that there was a band out there. Normally being in line for anything for two hours would not sound like it could be a good story. This time though it appears it turn into an unexpected adventure.

Stephanie said...

Ben, you can come to synagogue with me anytime!!!

Stephanie said...

Sharon, this means so much! Thank you. Mark and I had a very blessed and HUNGRY Yom Kippur. We broke our fast last night with good friends in Brooklyn. It was one of the tastiest and most gratifying meals we've had in a long time! xoxo

Stephanie said...

I'm glad you liked the pics, Jacey. It was definitely one of those typical New York quirky moments where we all ended up laughing at ourselves. When you live in a city where most people take themselves way too seriously most of the time, events like these that force you to slow down and give in to the moment are a good thing, and Yom Kippur is just the day to do it!

Henrike said...

Thank you for sharing this. A fascinating read really! Just looking at the smoked fish I get hungry. ;)

Stephanie said...

Thanks, Henrike. We polished off an entire smoked white fish! It was beautiful.

josie said...

I celebrated Yom Kippur this year and it was a deep and soulful experience. I also find rituals, religions and all the trimmings to be very appealing.

I don't know anyone else who observed this holiday so it was a very private and personal experience. I didn't go to synagogue and I don't know the prayers but the theory was easy to practice.

You pics made me wish I had a taste of the social elements tho'

And this blog offered a bit of that.
Thanks

Stephanie said...

Josie, I hope you had a wonderful holiday. I've spent many of them alone myself and know how meaningful that can be too. I think wherever we are in our lives, it's good to stop and reflect on how lucky we are and how humble we ought to be. Maybe you'll go to synagogue next year? This was Mark's first time hearing the Kol Nidre and it nearly put him to tears.

Jen said...

Hi Stephanie- what a beautiful post. I had never known much about Yom Kippur. How wonderful to learn about Jewish traditions. They are beautiful. I love the memories you shared about attending the shul with your father. Thank you for sharing something so personal and spiritual with the rest of us. :)

Stephanie said...

Jen, thank you! I finally fixed the images on the post so hopefully you you'll be able to see them. Unfortunately I only had my phone camera with me that day so the images are not all that clear - but you'll get the gist..