Jewish New Year ushers in 10 days of self examination

MANATEE -- The roughly 100 members of Bradenton's Congregation Ner Tamid are joining Jews from all over the Manatee and Sarasota in celebration of the Jewish New Year.

Rosh Hashana, which translates from Hebrew as New Year, technically began at sundown Sunday and initiates a 10-day period known as the Days of Awe or High Holy Days, which conclude with Yom Kippur on Sept. 26.

"We say that, metaphorically, on Rosh Hashana God opens the Book of Life and writes in it how our lives will be for the coming year and on Yom Kippur the Book is sealed," said Rena Morano, the service leader and education director of Congregation Ner Tamid, which is embarking on its ninth year.

"That is why this period is called 'Days of Awe,' because we have 10 days to examine our lives," Morano added.

During the 10 days, Jews ask for forgiveness from those they hurt, repent their wrong-doings and determine how to clean the tarnish from their souls, said Frank Morano, Rena's husband of more than 40 years and the person who named the synagogue Ner Tamid, which translates to "Eternal Light."

Like other synagogues in Manatee and Sarasota, Congregation Ner Tamid will be hosting services throughout the holidays.

Congregation Ner Tamid's first service is set for 10 a.m., Monday at the synagogue, which is located at 4802 B 26th Street W., Bradenton in a building formerly known as The Lodge Italian-American American Club.

The two-hour service is free and open to Jews and non-Jews alike. It will also feature Morano's son, Vajra Morano, taking on the task of blowing the ram's horn, also known as shofar.

"The shofar is our spiritual wake up call, it is like our alarm clock," Rena Morano said. "Everyone, Jews and non-Jews, is invited to our free service."

During the High Holy Days, it is up to each individual to take the time to reflect on their character and how they can improve, said Parrish's Dayna Henry, a Congregation Ner Tamid member

who, along with her husband, Mark, are rediscovering their Jewish heritage.

It's a fresh start," Dayna Henry said, indicating that to Jews the sound of the shofar goes with that fresh start. "It's kind of awe-inspiring to sit down and listen to the shofar. It's very hard to do, and when someone does it, it is moving. Everyone knows it's time to sit down and get serious."

Hearing someone blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana is a "mitzvah," or commandant, for all Jews, Rena Morano said.

Vajra Morano returned home from attending the University of South Florida in Tampa to celebrate the holiday and blow the shofar for the congregation.

After Monday's service, members and visitors will eat apples and honey, symbolic of a sweet new year to come.

Frank Morano's belief that forgiveness is a huge part of the High Holy Days is echoed by Dayna and Mark Henry.

The Henrys say they try to forgive as many people as they can during the High Holy Days, but sometimes forgiveness is unattainable for them.

"We are not Superman," Mark Henry said. "We try to do what we can do."

Rena Morano said she will be working, in her sermon Monday, to coax the congregation into deeper efforts toward forgiveness.

"I will be talking about how it makes no sense to hold a grudge against the people who have hurt us no matter what they have done to us," Morano said. "When we hate someone, that hatred doesn't hurt them, it hurts us. It increases depression, raises blood pressure, creates ulcers and alcoholism. If if we can manage to let go of anger, we have healthier relationships, less anxiety and less stress."

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686 or tweet @RichardDymond