Rabbis for local Jewish congregations spent Tuesday rolling Torah scrolls to passages that will be read Wednesday night as part of a Rosh Hoshanah service.
Congregations in both Augusta and Waterville plan to celebrate with a short evening service at sundown, followed by a shared meal that includes apples and honey, symbolizing a wish for a sweet new year. Rosh Hashanah is one of the holiest times in the Jewish calendar, commemorating the end of the Jewish calendar’s old year and beginning of the new one — 5775.
Rabbis at both congregations said Tuesday they have much to be grateful for over the past year and much to look forward to in the new one. Rosh Hashanah begins 10 days of introspection and reflection that end on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement and Judaism’s holiest day, which this year begins on the night of Oct. 3.
At Temple Beth El in Augusta, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, a renovation of new space made it a good year. Congregation Beth Israel in Waterville, in partnership with Colby College, joined in a shared love of Judaism.
Rabbi Erica Asch of Temple Beth El in Augusta said Tuesday that she is particularly grateful for the work of volunteers over the past year who helped completely convert a former home next to the sanctuary building on Woodlawn Avenue into a classroom/library and office building.
A dedication ceremony for the new building at 5 Woodlawn Ave. is set for Oct. 26.
The three classrooms on the upper floor will be the site of Hebrew classes for children, which are held on Sunday mornings.
Asch said she hopes it offers learning opportunities “for ourselves and our own growth as people,” saying that can include learning Jewish music, celebrating each new month in the Jewish calendar and a band. The congregation has about 110 households as members.
For the coming year, Asch said she plans to ask the congregation what they would like to have happen.
She said she is willing to visit people’s homes to teach more about Jewish rituals or whatever else they would like to learn about the faith.
“A rabbi is really a teacher,” she said. “That’s what I love to do.”
Services for Rosh Hashanah continue Thursday. Asch said they are open to the community.
“It’s a joyful holiday,” Asch said.
Rabbi Rachel Isaacs, of Congregation Beth Israel at 291 Main St. in Waterville, is focusing on faith and peace for the new year.
“My hope for the congregation is that we raise the next generation to be excited by and committed to Judaism,” she said Tuesday.
“We’re also praying for peace in Israel, and also praying that this is a year for peace between citizens of our country so we can work together to create a country that lives up to our values of justice and compassion.”
Isaacs, who also serves as a chaplain and teacher at Colby College, said the past year’s accomplishments include putting on the first ever Maine Conference for Jewish Life at Colby College.
“We had joyous holiday celebrations throughout the year where both synagogue members and Colby students came together to celebrate our shared love of Judaism,” she said.
She said the congregation has grown over the past year and now numbers close to 200.
The synagogue has undergone some sprucing up as well.
“Our synagogue got a brand new floor, which made me super happy,” she said. “It really makes the whole building shine.”
Betty Adams — 621-5631