A new year means bidding farewell to the past and looking forward to the future with hope. Tonight, the Jewish community celebrates the beginning of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana, and prepares for a 10-day journey that culminates with Yom Kippur, a day of atonement.
“They’re like Easter and Christmas for the Christian religion,” said Casey Goodman, administrator for Congregation Beth Shalom, explaining the importance of the holy days. Beth Shalom serves about 150 families.
Rabbi Yossi Feintuch, who leads Beth Shalom, said many Jewish people who don’t normally attend synagogue will turn out for these services, which means a space larger than the synagogue is needed to hold services. For the seventh year, they will be held at First Baptist Church.
In celebration of Yom Kippur, Jewish people take four steps on the road to becoming one with God and themselves, Feintuch said. He outlined them:
“You have to review your ethical track record and doing so is certain to cause you to feel remorse or regret over things you should have not done or things you left undone.
“Third, go and express regret to people you have hurt in this way — namely, you must repent by going face to face with those people and apologizing to them, and say you wish for them to forgive you.
“The fourth and final step is to return to the way you’re supposed to be and end the wrong acts you’ve been doing.”
Feintuch added that Jewish people should also abstain from eating, drinking, physical intimacy and wearing cosmetics beginning the evening before Yom Kippur and lasting the entire next day. This year Yom Kippur is Sept. 25.
That’s the same day, however, that the city will hold its Fall Festival of the Arts.
The 13th-annual free event, put on by the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs and held in downtown Columbia, draws crowds of about 10,000 every year. Cultural program specialist Kay Kjelland said the two-day event, geared toward families, is a celebration of visual art, music, dance, theater and literary art.
DeeDee Strnad, a member of Beth Shalom who plans to attend Yom Kippur services and adhere to the prescribed rules, said she was disappointed with the timing.
“They wouldn’t schedule the festival on Easter or Christmas,” she said.
Strnad, who has attended the festival almost every year, voiced her concern to festival officials such as Marie Hunter, manager of the Office of Cultural Affairs.
“We were not aware of the scheduling conflict,” Hunter said. “It was just an oversight for planning, and while we can’t change the date for this year, we’ve researched the dates of upcoming Yom Kippurs and are doing what we can to avoid it in the future.”
Scott Cristal, chairman of the Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of Beth Shalom, described the planning of the festival date as an “inadvertent slip-up.”
“The Festival of Arts is traditionally held during the last weekend of September, and the Jewish holidays are based upon the lunar calendar, so they’re not at the same time every year,” Cristal said. “It’s never happened before, and I just feel terrible about it — it didn’t dawn on me, either.”
Strnad said her purpose in making the complaint was not so the festival dates would be changed.
“I just wanted them to be aware of it, and they need to realize that they lose clientele when they’re that rigid with the dates,” she said. “But I’ve lived with being a minority all my life, so I understand what it feels like.”
Kerry Hollander, director of the Hillel Foundation, the Jewish center at MU, said she thinks festival officials have taken the right steps to ensure the scheduling conflict does not occur again.
“Just looking at the calendar more carefully means we’re all working towards the same goal of being more sensitive to each other,” she said.
Feintuch echoed Hollander’s sentiments.
“These two days (Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana) are an afterthought to many people, and my wishful thinking is for public organizations to give more consideration to other populations, even if they’re in the minority,” he said.