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Rosh HaShanah and 9/11 on the Same Day This Year

Ellen Levitt

Posted on September 7, 2018 08:26

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Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year and the somber anniversary of September 11th are the same day this year, for the first time. This makes for an unusual and reflective pairing.

This month Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, will coincide with September 11th, the most horrifying day in recent American memory due to the four coordinated terrorist attacks that wreaked havoc in New York City, Washington DC and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. This is the first time ever that the two dates have met, and they also fall on a Tuesday, as did the events that unfolded on September 11, 2001

The combination of a happy observance and celebration with a mournful, awful set of horrors is jarring, to say the least. Jews around the world look forward to this holiday, as do non-Jews who do not have to attend school or work due to the observance. People dread the arrival of September 11th and its associated sadness.

In New York and New Jersey this is of particular significance because there are many Jewish people here, and many residents of New York and New Jersey knew someone who died during or escaped from the World Trade Center, or who contracted diseases after volunteering to help in rescue missions there. The juxtaposition of celebration and mourning can be difficult to process. At the least, many people will look at the day in a somewhat different light. 

How will the family of someone such as Abraham Zelmanowitz feel on this day? "Abe" was an Orthodox Jewish man who worked at the World Trade Center, and when the Towers were in distress, he chose to try and help bring downstairs his wheelchair-bound colleague, Ed Beyea. Sadly both perished in the Towers collapse. Or the family of Lisa Ehrlich, a Jewish woman, mother of two sons, and Aon employee who died there? How do the families and friends of these deceased people put together the happy holiday and the sad memories? Can they rejoice and grieve on the same day?

I mention these two people not only because they were Jews and they died at the World Trade Center on 9/11, but also because they lived in my neighborhood. In fact, I had known Lisa since elementary school. She and I attended the same Girl Scout troop, the same junior high school (Andries Hudde JHS 240K) and high school (Edward R. Murrow High School), the same synagogue (East Midwood Jewish Center). The last time I ever spoke to her was at a blood drive at the synagogue; I was donating and she was volunteering at the greet desk. 

What is fitting for a day that is invested with extremes of emotions? What is the best thing to do on a day that asks of us to be happy and sad, for vastly different reasons? This year in particular, 2018 in the secular calendar and 5779 in the Jewish calendar, it will not be easy. Each person will need to navigate the day in her or his way, yet the community is there to support those who need comforting, and there are rituals that can be followed to bring structure to the day.

 

 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on September 7, 2018 08:26

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Source: Beliefnet

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