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Rosh HaShanah

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Merriam-Webster defines “diaspora” as “a group of people who live outside the area in which they had lived for a long time or in which their ancestors lived.” Because I am Jewish yet living outside of Israel, I am already labeled a Diaspora Jew, but should we coin a new word for someone who qualifies more than once?

I was born in Long Beach, New York, but have lived for decades in the Chicago area. That I live away from my roots is always close to my soul. Diaspora.

And then there is my longer-than-25-year congregation affiliation to a community that closed its doors in...

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Tonight we celebrate Rosh HaShanah, one of my favorite Jewish holidays - though each is my favorite in its own way.

What is it about Rosh HaShanah that makes this one my favorite? Without a doubt, it's the memories of celebrating the holiday in Israel. What kid wouldn't love spending time with family? Dipping apples in honey? Eating delicious pomegranates? Sending and receiving shanah tovah ("happy new year") cards?

Above all, though, I remember most fondly the Rosh HaShanah songs I sang as a kid. My favorite, "Shanah Tovah," was written by Levin Kipnis, a prolific writer...

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This year, the birthday of the world deserves a great cake. This iconic, cocoa-based, richly iced, Israeli birthday cake known as ugat yomledet (birthday cake) is a perfect treat for the Jewish new year, Rosh HaShanah, which begins tonight at sundown.

This Rosh HaShanah, according to ancient rabbinic tradition, commemorates 5775 years since the creation of the world. Even if most Jews do not take the world's age literally, Rosh Hashanah's sweet themes of personal and communal renewal and re-creation, deserve such a delicacy.

I have also prepared it for celebrations of a...

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Every year on the High Holidays, police officers sit outside our synagogue to protect our community and building from harm.

I understand why the police are there. I know the risk that comes with openly celebrating Judaism. And I appreciate their presence…until all their eyes are on me, a man wearing a kippah (head covering) and a gold Star of David necklace who also happens to be a person of color.

When I arrive, the officers stop, get out of their cars, and follow me into the building. They don’t stop pursuing me until the greeter has given the officers a thumbs-up,...

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Every year for 30 years, I’ve sat in a temple sanctuary on the High Holidays and watched a movie. It’s a movie only I can see – flashbacks of all the times I recall over the past 52 weeks when I didn’t measure up to the standards of my head, heart, and soul.

Every year, the actors, scenery, and dialogue change, but somehow the errors of my ways seem, fundamentally, the same. And so, year in and year out, I find myself pondering an identical thought: How can I really be better next year?

The truth is, after 30 years’ worth of acknowledgements, repentance, and promises, I...

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