Looking Forward, Looking Back: Some Highlights from the High Holy Days of 5778

As the High Holy Days of 5779 approach, I am thinking back to last year’s High Holy Days and wanted to share some of the moments that particularly stood out for me when celebrating with the Aquarian Minyan in 5778 (or 2017 in the Gregorian calendar). I was so happy to be with the community and many friends.  I felt so moved, and loved so much of what happened on the bima. 

Some special moments for me were: 

Barry Barkan giving inspired, transcendent blessings: bestowing a new name for Jim Dematteo of Avraham and a new name for Rabbi Tsvi Bar David of Shlomo; and offering individual prayers for healing to Hanna Cohen and Aryeh Trupin. I was moved by Aryeh’s account of how he told Barry he didn’t think he could play the clarinet again, and then Barry suggested he play for five minutes every day, and this worked, and to Aryeh’s great joy he was able to play his clarinet again.

Stephanie Brown offering a powerful talk based on the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl, recounting how the author maintained his humanity in the terribly inhumane conditions of Auschwitz by finding little bits of joy and gratitude. She spoke about her disgust, despair, dismay, depression about recent events since the previous November’s US Presidential elections, emotions many of us shared.

The theme of the year’s services, the saying by Rabbi Nahman that “Jews, a difficult time has come upon us, joy must fill the air” was so apt and beautifully worked into many parts of the services. 

Other wonderful highlights for me were hearing the violin rendition of the Kol Nidre, as played by Daniel Lewin, and Rabbi Tsvi’s music group including oud player Matt Wright. Rob Katz’s beautiful, creative and original music moved me deeply, especially his original song on gratitude  “Thank the One”.

I enjoyed Tom Bennigson’s thought-provoking drash on Rosh Hashanah about the story of the sacrifice of Isaac, thought about from an unusual angle. 

During the Yizkor service, I appreciated hearing Ben Stiegler’s remembrance of J.J. Jenkins, our late friend who had been the sound engineer for Aquarian Minyan services for a number of years, Renee Powell’s remembrance of her father-in-law Professor Li Chen, and Chuck Burack’s moving remembrance of his mother Ruth. I was very glad that I had the opportunity to offer some words of remembrance of our late friend and Minyan supporter Sam Landau. 

Seeing some of the younger generation of our community was heartening. Miriam Loeb’s acting and improvisational talents were on full display in her innovative skit about the Jonah story, told from God’s perspective. I also especially enjoyed seeing Michelle Shafrir, daughter of Moshe, and her husband Robin. And it was wonderful to see Marcia Slackman and her daughter Alina, now a high school graduate!

These were some of the highlights of the Aquarian Minyan High Holy Day services last year (5778, or 2017 in the Gregorian calendar) that were especially moving and beautiful to me. There were many more highlights, and many other wonderful leaders and contributions, beyond what I mentioned here.

I greatly appreciate all the thought, preparation, inspiration and hard work that went into creating and shepherding these wonderful High Holy Day services, and I am looking forward to celebrating the High Holy Days soon with the Aquarian Minyan for the New Jewish Year of 5779!!

Lea Delson, Aquarian Minyan participant and ardent fan