Awakening as Students of Life

On September 17, we welcomed Rabbi Andy Bachman P’19 to School Meeting (virtually) to speak with students and faculty about the meaning of Rosh Hashanah, which began last Friday evening, and Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in the Jewish faith, which begins this coming Sunday evening.

I have known Rabbi Bachman as the parent of Lois ’19, who is now enrolled at the New School in New York City, and have enjoyed learning from him each time he visits our school to discuss key moments in the Jewish calendar and do a little teaching. Since 2018, he has served as Executive Director of the Jewish Community Project, which describes him as “a New York City-based community leader and educator, and a nationally-recognized executive, teacher, writer, rabbi and social entrepreneur.”

During his visit this week, Rabbi Bachman noted that Rosh Hashanah begins the 10 holiest days on the Jewish calendar and is a new year celebration. It begins with joy and the consumption of sweet foods like honey cake and challah sweetened with raisins, as well as pomegranates and apples. The challah is round, a symbol of the cycles of life and renewal, and the fruits are evocative of the fall harvest. Unlike New Year’s Eve, this holiday is a time of solemn introspection, culminating in Yom Kippur, a day of atonement and fasting. 

One of the most moving customs of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the blowing of the shofar, the ram’s horn. Rabbi Bachman demonstrated the different sounds the horn can produce, to awaken us to our own behaviors and the behaviors of others, to free us of our feelings of sadness, to call us to action for peace and justice, and also to instill a spirit of light and goodness and peace.

“Each human being is made in the image of God and this is an awakening that I think we could really use in our world today, that’s too divided, where there’s too much hate, too much violence,” he said, blowing the shofar to awaken us as students of life not just as students of The Frederick Gunn School.  

Shana Tova, we wish you a good year, and to those observing Yom Kippur, may you have a meaningful fast.