September 5, 2013

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

With the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah beginning Wednesday, Rabbi Carolyn Braun plays a Shofar, (a horn-like instrument made from a bovine horn) part of a 30-minute ceremony at The Cedars retirement community in Portland on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013.

Forgiveness, atonement mark Jewish calendar

By Tom Bell
Staff Writer

Jews after sundown on Wednesday filled synagogues to observe the start of Rosh Hashanah, a holiday that marks the Jewish new year and commemorates the creation of Adam and Eve 5,774 years ago.

While the Hebrew calendar may not be scientifically accurate, the concept is a powerful one, said Rabbi Carolyn Braun of Temple Beth El in Portland.

"We have the idea we are celebrating the birth of the world," she said.

The two-day holiday kicks off a period for both rejoicing and of introspection, culminating in Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown on Friday, Sept. 13.

During this period, Jewish people in Maine and around the world seek forgiveness and atonement.

Like any new year celebration, though, Rosh Hashanah is also festive.

On Wednesday while leading a Rosh Hashanah service at the Cedars, a senior living community in Portland, Braun repeatedly blew a ram horn, a shofar in Hebrew, sending an ancient, trumpet-like call of alert down the corridors.

She also sang several melodies in Hebrew while nearly 20 residents sang along with her.

At one point, at he closing of a silent prayer, Carl Lerman, 86, sang an impromptu solo of Psalm 19:14, using a melody he had sung at his wife's funeral.

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer," he sang, using several variations of the melody.

Despite wearing a neck brace, his voice held strong.

Braun was visibly moved.

"To me, that is one of the essences of what the holiday is about," she said after the service of Lerman's performance.

"It is meant to evoke that kind of passion."

When asked about the significance of Rosh Hashanah, Lerman offered a simple explanation:

"Happy new year," he said. "That's what it means."


Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

Carl Lerman, 86, resident of The Cedars retirement community in Portland, laughs during a Rosh Hashanah service, after stating his new year's wish to be "to get this brace off my neck". Rabbi Carolyn Braun performed a 30-minute ceremony at the retirement community Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

With the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana beginning on Wednesday, Rabbi Carolyn Braun performed a 30-minute ceremony at The Cedars retirement community in Portland on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013.

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)

  • Back to News

Life & Culture

© 2014 The Portland Press Herald - All Rights Reserved.
MaineToday Media
One City Center, 5th floor, Portland, ME 04101-5009
(207) 791-6650