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High Holiday Stories & Traditions

As the the High Holidays approach, we are harkened back to memories of past observances. This year, unable to participate in our usual ways, we seek to find meaningful ways to express our Judaism.

The Shul community shares their High Holiday stories. If you'd like to share a story, you may do so here.

Patti and Rob Ivry

1.  For many years our we belonged to a Chavarah- a study group of eight families. Each year for Rosh Hashanah we all met at a neighborhood pond with bits of bread for Tashlich. As a group we went through the alphabet, identifying practices, and attributes to discard. For example A - avarice, B - bigotry, etc. For each negative identified, we'd toss a bit of bread into the pond 

In our group it was a way of ridding ourselves, our group, our community, and our world of evils. It was both personal and communal. Though the group has disbanded, Tashlich has now become a tradition we share with our grandchildren. 

2.  High Holidays for the Ivry family usually took place at the Hillel in Storrs, CT, the home of UCONN.  My father, an insurance professor in the business school, was also the volunteer cantor and with various rabbis, led the high holiday services for 50 years; from 1949-1999.  Because there very few Jewish faculty at the time, and he happened to have Yeshiva training, he started doing this as a volunteer and never stopped right up to his sudden death. 

Although in our early youth, we dreaded the length, he actually made the services lively and fun.  He was known for a resounding Ha Yom, we used to keep a stop watch on him for the reader's kaddish, and his partner, Elliott Wolk may have broken the shofar record for the longest Takiah Gadolah.  But his Kol Nidre was mesmerizing; spiritual and provocative that would make the legendary Jan Pierce proud. In my youth we went to services out of obligation, but as an adult, most years we drove back to Storrs to enjoy my father's services which proved more and more meaningful over time, especially when we brought our children so that the next generation could experience this family tradition.  They were rewarded by getting to go to the ark and hold the Torah.  To commemorate my father at his Memorial Service, we sang Ha Yom, and we think of him with love and fondness each year when the High Holidays come around.


Joan Brancaccio

My grandmother lived on the Grand Concourse in what had been an elegant building and was, in the late sixties, showing its age. It had tiled floors and hard walls so that our voices echoed when we played in the hallway. My grandmother lived on the 6th floor. Across the hall was her sister Jean.  Downstairs was my father's Uncle Moe and his wife, Aunt May. Great Uncle Sam and Aunt Freida were on another floor. My grandmother, as the second oldest child, and oldest daughter, was the matriarch. She was the soul of the family and she was the cook (oh, and the baker too).

So, Rosh Hashanah for me is about large family gatherings when the folding table was opened down the two steps in the sunken living room. The best tablecloth and dishes were set (I have those dishes today).  We gathered around that table. My father was always given the honor of being at the head, even though his elder uncles were there, and no one would dare suggest to Grandma otherwise.

Dinner began with chicken soup.  There was gefilte fish and pot roast. There were potatoes and some vegetables but my most vivid memory is of dessert. Grandma would bake a lemon meringue pie. I can still taste the tart lemons and the sweet meringue. But, even better, was a dessert Grandma didn't make. A dessert we only had at Rosh Hashanah.

But first, the guests. The guests around the table included my cousins from Baltimore and the great aunts and uncles from the building. There was always one other guest, someone we only saw at Rosh Hashanah and Passover -- Sidney Pepperbloom. Sidney was my father's brother's wife's father (or, my Grandmother's machatunim). He was a widower and my grandmother always invited him for the holidays. I don't really remember him at all. I couldn't tell you what he looked like or if he was nice (although I assume if he wasn't, I'd remember that). I was a kid and really didn't care, except that he always brought a special dessert - teiglach. A dessert I never saw at any other time. Sweet baked balls of dough drizzled in honey, formed into a tower and sprinkled with nuts. I vividly remember my sticky fingers as I played with and ate the teiglach.

I might not remember Sidney Pepperbloom or which vegetables my grandmother served, but the teiglach, I remember.


Wed, September 23 2020 5 Tishrei 5781