Rosh Hashanah in the Southland : Prayers for Peace and Happy New Year
Jews throughout Southern California will enter synagogues today for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, praying for matters as disparate as reunions with relatives in Russia and peace in Central America.
They will also ask the forgiveness of enemies and rejoice in seeing old friends.
Rosh Hashanah, which began Sunday at sundown, is celebrated by Orthodox and Conservative Jews for two days and by Reform Jews for one.
During the greeting of the year 5746, Jews will “take account of what we’ve done right or wrong in the past and start thinking about where there’s room for improvement,” said Rabbi Alfred Wolf of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles. “Then we’ve got 10 days to think about it.”
The 10th day is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews ask forgiveness for their sins of the previous year.
In a series of interviews, Jews from all walks of life revealed their thoughts entering the most solemn period of the Jewish year.
A Russian who entered the United States 10 years ago and became an attorney, Gorbis said his “biggest wish” is to be reunited with his family, which he hasn’t seen since he left home.
“I have missed my kid brother’s becoming a teen-ager, and I’m afraid I’m missing him becoming a man,” Gorbis said.
He said that for seven years his parents and brother have been denied permission to leave Russia, even though his mother suffers from a crippling bone disease that can be treated most effectively outside the Soviet Union.
Gorbis also said that the strain over his parents’ situation has been eased this year by the birth of his first child, a boy. “I have achieved a great deal of inner peace this year,” he said. “I want that peace to continue.”
An associate professor of political science at Whittier College, Oppenheim said the central message of the Jewish New Year can be applied to Central America and “the kind of problems that are confronting all of us.”
“There are passages about peace and about not having more for yourself than is necessary until other people have enough,” said Oppenheim, who studies Latin American political systems and policy issues.
“There are really some strong social messages in Judaic thought that come across very clearly in the holiday.”
Oppenheim, the mother of Amy, 8, and Benjamin, 5, said the holiday also provides time to “take stock of what I am and what I hope to do for my family.”
The Arleta grandmother, 71, who lost her husband of 49 years last March, won’t be celebrating the traditional way.
“I find it very difficult to think of going to temple without Henry,” she said. “So I’ve decided to take a trip.”
Freiberg, who has been active in Jewish organizations for decades, said she will visit the East Coast but that before she goes “I plan on making sure the kids are here for a few hours so I can share our apples and honey (a Jewish custom) for a sweet year.”
In Washington, D.C., she will attend a service for the dead on Yom Kippur.
“I’m excited that the holidays are coming,” she said. “I’m very aware. I’m reminiscent of past years with family and friends.
“I’ll be thinking all the time I’m gone about home and the kids, and I’ll hope that next year is easier.”
The producer of “The Karate Kid” said his biggest concern during the holiday was the appearance of Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan at the Forum on Saturday night.
Weintraub said Farrakhan, who has called Judaism a “dirty religion,” has been openly anti-Semitic in previous speeches.
“I hate to see the New Year start with that kind of a voice,” he said.
It has been a hard year for the former 20th Century Fox productions president. A year ago Sept. 3, her mother died.
“It was a year of sadness . . . a tremendous loss,” she said from the office of Jaffe/Lansing, her current production company. “I really missed her every day.
“I think whenever you suffer a loss like that, it causes you to reevaluate life and decide your priorities,” said Lansing, an active fund-raiser for the United Jewish Fund of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles.
Lansing decided that she wanted to strengthen her personal relationships.
“I’m not married, you know, so as I approach the new year . . . (I have) a real desire to have a meaningful relationship. . . . I’m interested in loving someone, caring for my friends and having supportive relationships, in really concentrating on the intimacies of life.”
Morris, 18, a sophomore at Pierce Community College, said that at services she would think about her grandfather, who died this year, but that the holiday would serve additional purposes.
“When I sit in temple,” she said, “I think back about things that have happened in the past year--good and bad--and what kind of things I want to happen in the coming year and what I have to do to make them happen.
“I really don’t feel like I have sins that I have to repent for. I’m not a perfect person all the time, but I don’t think I do anything that terrible. . . .
“And I guess it’s a nice time for our family to be together,” said Morris, who lives with her mother, Jeannie, and brother, Bradley, 16. “As we get older the three of us don’t seem to spend as much time together, so it’s special.”
Salter, the owner of 48 Beno’s clothing stores, also said the holiday is an important time for family relationships. He said he thinks of the period in terms of forgiveness.
“The concept is that you can ask God for forgiveness for your sins against God but you can’t ask God for forgiveness for your sins against other human beings,” he said.
“That to me is probably the most important thing. You have to make up to those people that you may have wronged.
” . . . That is one of the most difficult things in the world. Not to judge. Just to say, ‘I’m sorry. It doesn’t matter who’s at fault.’
“But life is so short. There are cases where parents don’t talk to children and brothers don’t talk to brothers. It’s stupid. . . . Most of the problems are plain, outright nonsense.”
Prager, the KABC talk-show host, believes that the purpose of the holiday is “moral introspection.” Individuals and the Jewish people must ask whether they are “fulfilling God’s and Judaism’s demands.”
“In that regard, two things come immediately to mind,” he said. “I have long believed that the Jewish people quite unwillingly and unwittingly often serve as a moral litmus test. For example, this past year Bitburg was a classic example of the Jews confronting the world with its greatest evil.
“Unfortunately, however, the Jewish community has been better at confronting the world with a dead evil, Nazism, than with the greatest living evil, Communism.
“The other reflection as a Jew and for my people is that we have to remember that we have a task, a mission. That is to spread ethical monotheism. Which means that we have to tell a painful message to both the religious right and the secular left.
“To the religious right we have to say that any teaching of God without teaching that God’s greatest demand is ethical behavior will lead to evil. To the secular left we have to cry that any system not rooted in God’s demands will likewise lead to evil.”
To Brin, the publisher of Jewish newspapers with 44,000 California subscribers, one of the most ethical things Jews could do would be to help their own poor.
“Twenty percent of our families are below the poverty level,” he said. “Most people don’t know this. Many are aged with no place to turn.”
Despite that situation, he said, life can be beautiful.
The head of Heritage Publications, he recalled working as a milkman for Arden Farms in the Beverly-Fairfax area in 1935.
“In front of buildings you’d see signs. Gentiles only. No pets. That meant no Jews or dogs allowed,” he said.
Brin said many good things had happened with integration since then. “I’ve seen a quality of life that I didn’t think possible.”
The Republican congresswoman from Northridge said her quality of life has improved this year with the birth of a grandson.
She said that during the New Year she will be thinking about the boy and her upcoming campaign for the nomination to run against Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.)
“And I can’t help but reflect on the state of affairs in Israel and hope that the conflicts there can decline and peace will come to that region of the world,” she said.
otally mainstream them, both in terms of physical and attitudinal accessibility.”
“Organized Judaism is doing this,” he said. ". . . We’d just like to see the process accelerated.”
The Century City lawyer, influential Democrat and chairman of the committee that ran the Los Angeles Olympics last year said all other concerns are dwarfed by one: world peace. He said he would pray for “a substantial movement toward peace in every part of the world.”
Wolf, 69, who will retire as senior rabbi at Wilshire Boulevard Temple on Nov. 1, agreed with that.
He said he hopes that his new career as director of an institute will contain only pleasant surprises, but he also had more serious hopes.
“From the leaders of the nations I hope for a little more common sense,” he said. “From the peoples of the world, especially those involved in the terrible tensions that divide nations, just a little more forbearance of human frailty.
“And from God, I pray for protection from Murphy’s Law. Because if anything does go wrong in a nuclear world . . . do I have to finish the sentence?”