Happy New Year! Yes, we have officially entered the year of 5777 according to the Hebrew Calendar.
I’ve always loved the Jewish New Year. It’s much nicer than the New Years connected to the Gregorian calendar. The food is better, the introspection is more authentic, the music is lovelier, and nobody expects me to try and stay up until midnight. Plus, the New Year’s High Holiday services tend to draw Jews out of the woodwork like none other. Even if you go to services on no other day, you show up for High Holidays. This makes for ideal gossip mongering.
While I’ll admit that last year I didn’t go to services, this time around I was really in the mood. I researched congregations, trying to determine which services would suit me best. I ended up selecting the the self-described “independent, egalitarian,” congregation that was founded in the 1970’s. It seemed to suit me very well, which is to say, reminded me strongly of the congregation that I grew up with. For starters, the High Holiday services are held in a Presbyterian church.
In (spiritual? culinary?) preparation for Monday’s services, last Sunday I made a fancy Challah recipe so complex that I thought about using it alone as a topic for a blog post. It was quite the adventure even before getting into the baking process. I bicycled all over town to find the ingredients, bought a spice grinder, and still never found the required rye flour. I’ll admit that the end result was about the most impressive bread I’ve ever made.
Monday’s Rosh Hashanah services exceeded my expectations. Much of it really did remind me of home – lots of lefty Jews, women leading much of the service, and an emphasis on Hebrew rather than English. I was almost fooled into feeling like I’d entered a pleasant alternate reality, far from DC, when I understood the person speaking was the brother of a famous politician. Next, I realized that the lady who had walked in was probably an even more famous ex-member of the House of Representatives. (When I got back to the office, I confirmed it really was who I thought it was – and I didn’t even know she was Jewish!)
DC is such a weird place.
Anyway, High Holidays continue. Yom Kippur is on Wednesday, and today I’m keeping it simple and making apple cake.