Rosh Hashanah: A time of reflection and renewal for the Jewish community

ST. GEORGE — Starting Friday evening and carrying through to Sunday evening is a time of reflection and renewal known as Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year.

Rabbi Helene Ainbender of Beit Chaverim Jewish community, speaks at the 2019 Prayer Over the City event at the St. George Tabernacle, St. George, Utah, Jan. 1, 2019 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“It’s a time of renewal of the spirit and reflection for the Jewish people,” Rabbi Helene Ainbender, of the Beit Chaverim, Jewish Congregation of Greater Zion, said Thursday while describing Rosh Hashanah. “It’s a time when Jews come together and pray together.”

According to the Jewish calendar, the new year is 5781, marking that many years since God is believed to have created the world. Rosh Hashanah also literally means “head of the year,” according to Rabbi Mendy Cohen, of the Chabad Jewish Center of Southern Utah.

It also marks the beginning of what are called the “High Holidays,” which continue for 10 days – called the “Days of Awe” – and concludes with Yom Kippur, of the Day of Atonement.

“It’s a time to reflect on what’s been done in the last year,” Ainbender said. “A time of self-appraisal and returning to God.”

The days marking the Jewish New Year are also a time when God is said to take note of the behavior of his people and writes their names into the Book of Life.

Shofar rams horm
An example of a shofar ram’s horn that would be used during a Rosh Hashanah service | Photo courtesy of, St. George News

“Everything that happens during these days is very important,” Cohen said, adding that a part of the new year observance is the blowing of a ram’s horn called the shofar.

“The shofar is the central symbol of Rosh Hashanah,” Cohen wrote in a press release. “Synagogues blast the shofar every day for a month leading up to the holiday, culminating with a sequence of 100 blasts during the Rosh Hashanah services. … The cry of the shofar is a call to repentance as Jews look back at misdeeds of the past year and resolve to improve during the coming one.”

Cohen also described the blowing of the horn as a way of “reaching out to God for a blessed and happy new year.”

Additional observance of the Jewish New Year includes coming together in prayer and feasting and potentially other ceremonial practices. However, with the onset of COVID-19, it hasn’t made public gatherings easy due to fears of spreading the virus.

Due to virus concerns, Ainbender’s congregation is holding virtual Rosh Hashanah services over the internet. While holding virtual services has actually seen increasing participation overall since the pandemic began, Ainbender said a downside has been a lack of face-to-face interaction.

Apples and honey is a treet often associated with Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year. | Photo by cstpdx from Pixabay, St. George News

In order to provide a way for members of Southern Utah’s Jewish community and others to observe Rosh Hashanah in person, the Chabad Center of Southern Utah is holding two brief outdoor services on Sunday in St. George at 10:15 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Rabbi Cohen asked that those interested in attending RSVP for details and the location of the event. Contact information is supplied at the end of this article. Attendees are also advised to wear face coverings and observe social distancing. 

“Our goal is to lower the barriers of entry, and to encourage each and every Jewish person to actively participate in the observances of Rosh Hashanah,” Chaya Cohen said. “This year, that means bringing a Rosh Hashanah service to a location where people can safely participate and making it free of charge as many in our community are hurting financially now.”

The 30-minute service will include the sounding of the shofar as well as selected prayers from the High Holiday liturgy and traditional songs, according to a press release.

For those not able to leave their home, the Chabad Jewish Center offers Rosh Hashanah at-home kits, which will bring many of the resources enjoyed at a synagogue into the home. The kits include a holiday guide with select prayers, candles and traditional Rosh Hashanah treats including apples, honey and challah bread.

For more information about this ceremony contact the Chabad Jewish Center at 435-619-6630, [email protected] or visit

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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