RH 5781

Screen capture: greetingcarduniverse.com

By Sherri W. Morr

The Countdown

PLAN THE MEALS, Stock up on the essentials: water, honey, wine, new fruit (black plums this year), apples (plenty of these) the basics: water, lemonade, milk, margarine, butter eggs, challah (with and without raisins) and honey cake-lots of it. Remember to be one of the nice people in the kosher markets, butchers, and bakeries. Be pleasant let the older folks go ahead of you. Just be nice after all it is the time, if not now, when?

Today just days before lighting candles both for RH and for Shabbat (RH first, then Shabbat), the hunt begins. Cooking, freezing, cleaning, making lists, checking them way more than twice, prepping attire, dry-cleaning the talis, finding enough clean kippot, choosing the linens, pressing and folding the good napkins, checking and rechecking enough dishes, forks, glassware. I have to clean and make the fish but every year less people eat it … the millennials will not touch it, Mom & Dad used to say it gives them heartburn, and Uncle Abe says it makes him gag. Make sure the guests especially the new people know how to get here, and use the code to get into the building. Ask the boys put leaves into the dining table. Make sure all the wine cups are polished. Be sure the phones are all charged to take photos and capture these 5781 memories of new babies with us. Is there a special prayer for that? If not have the moms write it. Let Aunt Sima read her poem but reprint it on clean paper, it’s all spotted from previous years. Let people tell their own RH stories, everyone has at least one. My favorite in the early 1950s my grandma a new immigrant, living in Brooklyn-where else- bought her fish live, let it swim in the claw-footed bathtub until she knocked it out, killed it to make her own gefiltte fish.

The Reality

Not this year. For a brief moment I forgot there will be no guests, no new babies, certainly no directions to get here because no one will be here. Just the 2 or 4 of us. We are in a Pandemic; you know the one where our government said it would be over by Easter.

I briefly, foolishly really, let my mind wander thru selfish fantasy; it will just be us. We will be alone this year. COVID and social isolation has robbed us, yes stolen RH as though someone had a gun. On the other hand, thank goodness I had the memories. I could flourish in those memories and smile, laugh, albeit in an exhausted way. This year we will have a simple dinner, with little fuss, and no staged shopping and cooking. It can all be handled erev RH in the morning. No one will be rushing off to shul, nor rushing home to savor RH with friends and family and even those people who will not eat the fish. Who is even making fish this year … not I? It’s a waste of time and money. The cost of the 3 variations of fresh bass, salmon, trout and to make gefilte fish could feed a family of 6 for days. Just neither economical or even smart. Now, what gets me really angry is to think we missed Passover and Shavuot and now RH without our extended families makes me cry. Worrying over money and economics contributes to walking the floors at midnight as though I was waiting for a teenager to arrive home Every throat tickle, a sneeze or a heavy chest startle me …do I have a fever? Do I have it; I start to sweat with fear. Is this the beginning of COVID?

Just Being

The synagogues, the temples, even the shtebles are being creative, some safer than others but most very cognizant of the health specifications. Some are picnicking in parks, sitting in circles 10 ft apart, masked, gloved and no sharing of food. Services have been shortened-how long could you sit in front of the computer screen? Some recommendations include singing outdoors, shofar blowing on street corners by zip code, group virtual challah baking and much more. Anything to connect with people we know and love, and emphasis upon welcoming the stranger.

It is the new year, the time to be grateful to have hope and appreciate love and family. Let’s remember, others have had it worse, much worse. No need to list. Let us remember them, and say a special prayer of thanks we are alive, have food and shelter; pray for the memory of others who did not. Let us also remember this country of increased people, some our neighbors who live on the street, with little hope, begging for food, and some sense of shelter. They are of all stripes and we are them. We do not want to honor their memory…we want them given the very natural things we all want…being grateful to be alive, having the expected values inherent in a quality of life and livelihood. If we do nothing else this Rosh Hashanah 5781, please let us do what we can to improve and change the life of these people. They deserve it, the same way we would.


Sherri has spent the last several decades working & consulting in and out of the Jewish community as an expert in nonprofit management, primarily major gift prospecting.

Sherri has published fundraising articles in technical journals, eJewishPhilanthropy, Sh’ma, JWeekly, the Jewish Newsletter of Northern CA, and The Beverly Hills Courier in addition to nonprofit management consulting. She is working on several writing projects including: “Captain Kirk Visits the Holy Land,” “Pico & Jewish, A Neighborhood,”and a memoir “Canned Fruit, and other Stories of Jewish Identity.”