It’s a transforming of who you are as a person and the world around you,” Chaplain Rabbi Karyn Berger said. “Rosh Hashana begins a period of reflection … we’re called on to take account of damage we’ve done, to ask for forgiveness and to make amends.”
Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year and the first of the high holy days — a chance for each person to make a fresh start, marking the beginning of the Ten Days of Penitence.
Volunteer Barry Malini prepared food for Wednesday evening’s event. “We dip apples in honey to symbolize a sweet new year, and eat pomegranate seeds, to symbolize a fruitful year with lots of seeds meaning good things to come,” Malini said.
He baked honey cake to represent the sweet blessings for the new year, in addition to traditional Jewish dishes, challot (egg bread) and potato kugel.
“When we have round challah, it represents the circle of life, and raisins in the challah are a symbol of the sweetness of life,” Berger said.
“This year, we are having salmon salad
for dinner,” Jewish Activities Coordinator Edith Freyer said. “When we have a less formal rabbi, we tend to have a less formal dinner.”
About 25 people attended Wednesday night’s service, many of them donning kippot, the traditional head coverings. The rabbi and cantor wore white prayer shawls, the color representing purity and cleanliness. “The arch cover is white, the torah is covered in white,” Berger said. “Many people will wear white clothing during this period as well.”
The most exciting of customs for those recognizing Rosh Hashana is the blowing of the Shofar (a hollowed-out ram’s horn), Berger said. “Everyone looks forward to it every year.”
During the service, Berger played guitar while the congregants sang along in Hebrew and English.
The songs were punctuated by the rabbi’s proclamations on God, redemption and forgiveness.
“Be brave,” Berger urged as congregants called out the names of people in need of lifting up through prayer. The rabbi cited the challenge of trying to satisfy many needs with a diverse congregation and asked for patience with the crowd.
Together, the congregants brainstormed the different meanings behind Rosh Hashana. “All potentiality is at your finger tips,” Berger said. She stressed the importance of the ability to right your wrongs and move forward with a new beginning.
This year is Berger’s first High Holidays at Fort Hood. There are about 40 active people in the Fort Hood Jewish community, Berger said.
“We have a pretty good mix, some soldiers, some retired military and also family members.” The community is growing, but it fluctuates frequently due to the nature of military moves. Local Jews also go to Temple, Waco and Austin to practice their faith.
Because the military community brings together people of a variety of cultures, the Fort Hood Jewish community includes people from all over the world with a wide variety of traditions and practices, Berger said. “Barry is Yemenite and his family is Arab-Israeli. His traditions differ from Edith, who was raised in Brooklyn.”
Because of the 1492 Inquisition in Spain, many Jewish children were brought up Christian, and some families are just now finding out they’re Jewish, Malini said. This phenomenon is especially prevalent in Texas, where there is a large Latino population.
Wednesday evening’s Rosh Hashana kickoff was followed by lengthier services on Thursday and Friday. The culmination of the Jewish high holidays is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, on Sept. 13. It will likely be the most well attended service of the year, Berger said.
All services are held in the Religious Education Facility of the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel.