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Creating the Sound of Rosh Hashanah


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By Rhoda Amon
Staff Writer

September 25, 2003, 8:58 PM EDT

Lee Zeidman can hardly wait for Rosh Hashanah to begin. He has his own shofar for the High Holy Days this year.

Zeidman was among 200 participants of all ages attending a recent hands-on lesson in the ancient craft of shofar-making in the Community Synagogue of Port Washington. The shofar is a ram's horn that is fashioned into a musical instrument and blown on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebration that begins at sundown Friday night.

At "shofar factories" in synagogues and Jewish centers throughout Long Island this month, hundreds of children and their parents learned to measure, cut, sand and drill their own shofars, which they could take home.

Zeidman, of Port Washington, who is 48, brought his 9-year-old daughter Jamie to the shofar lesson, and got caught up in the spirit of it. "This one is for me," said the 6-foot-6 corporate communications consultant as he carefully polished his finished horn. "There was nothing like this when I was growing up. We thought only the rabbi had a shofar," he said above the din of shofar makers testing their wind pipes.

Dorette Forman, 40, of Port Washington, was similarly enraptured as she watched her youngest daughter, Nicole, 7, patiently struggle to saw off the tip of her horn. Growing up as the daughter of Holocaust survivors in a more formal congregation in Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J., Forman said, "I didn't feel as engaged so deeply in the beauty and spirit of the religion as I am now."

Shofar-making is "a great opportunity for parents and children to do something as a team," said Michael Albukerk, an outreach director for Tzivas Hashem, a Brooklyn-based Jewish children's organization that conducts shofar factories. "Children see their parents taking this as seriously as they do."

Before the hands-on lesson begins, Albukerk warms up his audience with tales relating to the Jewish holy days and 5,764 years of history. The object, he said, was "to bring the Jewish religion to children. We're competing today with so many exciting things that mesmerize children." The organization, founded in 1980 by a Lubavitcher rabbi, "wants to bring the religion back into the home and apply it to everyday life," he said.

Rabbi Irwin A. Zeplowitz, spiritual leader of the Port Washington congregation, said listening to the shofar "makes you think, "Am I the kind of person I should be?' ... You are reminded that you have the spark within you to be a better person. It's a wakeup call for our souls." The rabbi has invited all the shofar makers to blow their horns at the closing service on Yom Kippur -- Oct. 6 -- the Day of Atonement that ends the Ten Days of Penitence begun on Rosh Hashanah.

"It's their reward for all that hard work," said Gunther Lawrence, a spokesman for the Brotherhood of the Community Synagogue, which sponsored the shofar factory. "Everyone got into the spirit, even older people who made three or four shofars for their grandchildren," said Lawrence, 76, of Port Washington, who came from Germany with his parents in 1936.

Although known as a ram's or sheep's horn, the shofar can be made from any kosher animal with hollow horns, "except the cow or bull because of its negative association with worship of the golden calf," Albukerk said.

Albukerk said the organization uses up to 10,000 horns at shofar sessions in the tristate area, which includes programs in Garden City, Bellmore-Merrick, West Hempstead, Syosset, Great Neck, Oceanside, Roslyn Heights, the Five Towns and Douglaston, Bayside, and other Queens locations.

Zeidman, a former TV sportscaster, admitted he wasn't very good at sounding his shofar. His daughter, Jamie, however, "practices every day to the dismay of her siblings." She expects to join the shofar-blowing chorus at the close of Yom Kippur.

After that, Albukerk will start collecting horns for next year.

Copyright 2003, Newsday, Inc.


 

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