Dozens of Jews and non-Jews alike gathered at the Chabad Lubavitch Jewish Center on Sunday to ring in the Jewish new year.
Rosh Hashanah began at sundown. Adults gathered in the main room to pray while children played upstairs. To the side sat a mindfully laid out meal.
Guests to the observance would be forgiven for not being able to recite the Hebrew prayers, but declining the food wasn’t as much an option.
“It’s not a bystander’s sport,” Rabbi Shloime Greene told the guests passing plates of food.
For observers, Rosh Hashanah is not just about the start of the Jewish year, but beginnings for everyone personally.
“It’s a time to reign in and reset,” Greene said. “It’s a beautiful opportunity God makes on the day man was created … specifically with the intention of realigning individuals.”
Greene and his family opened the center for the holiday for anyone regardless of their level of affiliation with Judaism.
“I want them to experience the traditional, old-school authentic Rosh Hashanah dinner,” he said.
It began with breaking a sweet version of Challah — a traditional Jewish bread — then beginning the meal by dipping an apple slice into honey.
Fruits and sweet foods are key symbols in the Rosh Hashanah meal. While the sweet combination is a way to symbolically invoke a sweet new year, Rabbi Dovid Greene gave a more detailed interpretation of why a product of a stinging insect was chosen for this meal.
“It teaches us the past may be a source of pain,” he said to the gathered observers. “This transforms into sweetness.”
Fish heads were also served to symbolize a mindful new year.
“There’s a Hebrew saying, ‘may you be the head, not the tail,’” Shloime Greene said.
“Everything on this table is symbolic,” said Irene Meyer. Meyer, who grew up in Europe and Montreal said the center is a welcoming place for people looking to connect with their Jewish roots.
“You don’t have to have any credentials,” she said. “Just come in.”
For some transplant Jews, the center is a place to find and reconnect with friends.
Nelson Gruszczynski, a medical student at Mayo from Montreal, went to the center as soon as he moved to town about three years ago.
“It brings me home,” he said of observing holidays there.
“We have a lot of friends at this table,” said Allen Pimienta, a resident at Mayo Clinic from Toronto.
Pimienta and Gruszczynski met not at Mayo but at the center.
As if on cue, while the two reminisced about meeting there, Shloime Greene encouraged people to stand, move to the other side of the table and find someone to speak with.
“Maybe you’ll find another friend,” he said. “We could all use more friends.”
Observances of Rosh Hashanah continue today with the ritual sounding of the Shofar, which is meant to awaken observers from figurative slumber and serves as a reminder that we often sleepwalk through our lives. Following afternoon services, participants will partake in “tashlich,” in which observers will go to Cascade Creek in Kutsky Park for a traditional cleansing or emptying of sins.