AP: This Rosh Hashana is different

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AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

There will be some differences — and some constants — over the coming days as the New Light congregation observes Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, for the first time since three of its members were among 11 Jews killed by a gunman nearly a year ago at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

The man who last year blew New Light’s shofar, the ram’s horn trumpet traditionally sounded to welcome the High Holy Days, was among those killed. Richard Gottfried, 65, a dentist nearing retirement, was one of the congregation’s mainstays in reading the haftara, a biblical passage that follows the Torah reading.

In Gottfried’s place, the shofar will be blown this year by the congregation’s rabbi, Jonathan Perlman. And the venue for the services will not be the Tree of Life synagogue, the site of the massacre. All three congregations that shared space there have been worshipping at neighboring synagogues since the attack on Oct. 27, 2018.

However, Perlman’s wife, writer Beth Kissileff, said the congregation plans no changes in the substance of its services over the two-day holiday that starts Sunday evening.

“I feel conducting Rosh Hashana prayers as we have in the past is a form of spiritual resistance,” Kissileff said. “Part of our defiance of what the shooter was trying to do is to conduct our religious lives with as much normality as possible.”

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