The Jewish community is set to bring in Rosh Hashanah, the Hebrew New Year, on Thursday, and synagogues in the city will celebrate it in the presence of several armed security personnel.
Nearly two years after the 26/11 attacks in which a Jewish rabbi and his wife were killed, city Jews are still insecure about their safety. All nine synagogues of Mumbai and Thane continue to be manned by armed guards on a daily basis.
“We have to live with the times, and unfortunately the times right now are not secure,” said Solomon Sopher, chairman and managing trustee of a number of city synagogues.
Ezra Moses, secretary of Thane’s Shaar Hashamim synagogue, said that security would have to persist as long as terrorism prevails. “This year we have tightened it because so many festivals are coming together,” said Moses.
Jews traditionally begin Rosh Hashanah, a day symbolising the creation of the world, by ceremonially blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn) 101 times in the synagogue.
“This is to remind us of the moment when the Ten Commandments came down,” said Moses.
Unlike other communities, their New Year is not entirely a joyous occasion for Jews. From Thursday to Yom Kippur (Day of Judgement) on September 18, Jews ask God for forgiveness for any wrongdoings during the year, and concentrate on charity.
“These are 10 days meant for solemn introspection, and all of us try to be better people,” said Elizah Jacob, a prominent member of the community who will be among the hundreds of Jews gathering at Bhaucha Dhakka on Thursday evening for a special prayer service by the sea. “It’s a symbolic way of washing away our sins.”
At the dinner tables of Maharashtrian Jewish families, not all is solemn.
At Yael Ashtamkar’s Thane home, for instance, kosher fish, pomegranates and chikecha halwa (a wheat and coconut-milk sweet dish) will be cooked and served.
“The most essential dish is apple-and-honey, which brings in the New Year on a sweet note,” said Ashtamkar (26), a professional.