Rosh Hashanah is the start of the holiest period in the Jewish calendar, a ten day period in which we reflect on our behaviour, both as individuals and towards others.
Often mistranslated as New Year, on this day we also celebrate the creation of the world and of humanity by God.
It is a time when, however religious you are, you come together as family. The community assembles in the synagogue to hear the shofar, the ram’s horn, being blown as a reminder to reflect on our behaviour. We pray for a sweet year to come, and this continues back at home where we eat lots of sweet foods made with honey.
I volunteer for the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association in their new Holocaust Exhibition & Learning Centre at the University of Huddersfield. This has close parallels with Rosh Hashanah, for in the Centre we learn how the Nazis wanted to destroy every vestige of Jewish life and observance. They wanted to destroy family life, communal life and every trace of Jewish humanity as we know it.
For me, the Centre is like the shofar. A clarion call to reflect on our behaviour and on how we treat others in these troubled times.
On Rosh Hashanah we are taught that God judges our words, behaviour and actions. Ten days later on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we receive our sentence or fate for the coming year.
Through my involvement in the Centre, I hope that I can help people to reflect on their behaviour, to learn, and to build a better future for us all.
May the Almighty inscribe us all, people of all faiths and none, for good in the Book of Life, and grant us all a sweet, pleasant and prosperous life with our families over the coming year – a blessing that the victims of the Holocaust were so cruelly denied.
Michael Sharp, September 2019