Rosh Hashanah at Toruo Synagogue 2016 by Aaron Ginsburg
note: I was so busy when I visited the Ukraine, Belarus, and Israel that I did not have time to write about my experiences. I will describe some of my adventures in my weekly messages.
Monday, the first day of Rosh Hashanah: “Where were you when the fire alarm went off?” I was in my second row seat at Touro Synagogue, trying to stay awake. I was still lagged out after my 26 hour trip home from Israel. The alarm was so loud that there was some motion in the Ancient Jewish Cemetery at the top of Touro St. Maybe it was just the horse chestnuts hitting the ground.
About Chestnuts: I used to put a few in my pockets when I walked to Touro for the High Holidays. Years later, I am often reminded of my youth when I discover them in a forgotten pocket. When I found some in Dokshitz I pocketed them. Just in case, upon my return to the US I declared them. This led to a meeting with the agricultural inspector. He donned plastic gloves and gingerly retrieved them from my suitcase, lest they propagate. He told me it was first time he got to ask the chestnut question, “Why chestnuts?” I responded, “Why carrots?”
On entering shul, there were several leaflets explaining the ins and outs of Rosh Hashanah. A rather complicated schedule showed some important information: which pages would be skipped.
One leaflet explained the proper High Holiday greeting. Fortunately, after the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Gut Yom Tov is perfectly fine. Although the emphasis was on the wording, there was an underlying assumption.Greeting each other is the rule, not the exception. I’ve noticed that when there are fewer people around, we are more likely to greet our fellow human beings, but this impulse fades in a crowd. At Touro, there is rarely a crowd, and always a greeting.
Rabbi Marc Mandel stumped us by asking about Charmian Carr, who died on September 17. Charmian played Liesl, the oldest daughter in the film version of “The Sound of Music.” While singing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” she danced with Rolfe, Liesl’s older brother. The Rabbi then got to the point…and made music by blowing the shofar.
Tashlich was at the transient dock at Perotti Park. More people were at tashlich than at the evening service which followed. Yair Strachman gave us something to think about. At Sinai, when the ten commandments were given, the shofar sounded, but it was not clear who was blowing it. I wonder if the shofar was the beating hearts of the People of Israel, excited by the overwhelming experience. He also observed that Rosh Hashanah was a relatively low key holiday. How could it be otherwise, with the emphasis on apples and honey? Our time on the transient dock was brief. As we finished the dock master realized that we were not there not on ferry business, and asked us to get back on dry ground.
|Aaron Ginsburg, Alexandra Dimyenko, Helen Korostik. |
"Have some Belarusian apples."
Speaking of apples, on Sunday, September 18, I visited Alexandra Dimyanenko, who was born in Parafyanovo, 6 miles from Dokshitz, where the Ginsburg family lived. I was assisted by English teacher Helen Korostik. Alexandra lived in a pre-WWII Jewish home owned by the Bilsky family. They were killed in the Shoa. When I arrived Alexandra offered me Belarusian apples. She gave me two bags of apples, one fresh and one dried. Getting suspicious, I asked, “Where is the tree?” We went out to the garden so she could point it out. When I went to Israel, I met several people whose parents were from Parafyanovo, and was able to greet them with an apple from Parafyanovo.
I had also visited Parafyanovo on Thursday, September 15. Galena Azarevich, chairman of the local government, discussed moving a concrete wall so the Holocaust massacre site, where 30 Ginsburg family members were killed, would be visible from the street.
|Standing in the center is the German soldier Eric, |
who helped save the lives of Jacob and Isaac Castrol.
Maria Balash, a child during WWII, talked about the Jewish man, Jacob Castrol, that her parents were hiding in the barn while their home was occupied by seven German soldiers. Saving the lives of Jacob and his brother involved several people, including a German soldier, Eric. Jacob stayed in the village, and I visited his grave. When we got to the cemetery, Galina knew what to do. She made a phone call, and soon a woman arrived who took us right to his well-tended headstone. Jacobs children are now in Russia, Lithuania, and Israel. He has a nephew, also named Jacob Castroll, in Los Angeles.
|Jacob Casrol's grave|
|Aaron Ginsburg with school |
principal Victor Korostik,
I suggested that we show the video
“Remembering Dokshitsy” about the 2008 cemetery restoration to the local school. English teacher Helen Korostik called the school principal Victor, who happened to be her husband In less than one hour I was at the school showing the video. Helen Korostik later thanked me for telling her about local history.
On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, we were happy to welcome Yehuda Yaakov, the consul general of Israel to New England. He was joined by his wife Ofra, daughter Yaara, mother Molly Jacob, and family friend Yair Lange. They were with us to daven. I’ve notice that we can always pull a speaker out of a hat. The consul addressed us briefly. After an Aliyah, he greeted us and spoke about Shimon Peres, z.l. He noted that Peres supported a strong Israel, both militarily and economically, and the he felt this was a necessity for Israel to make peace with its neighbors.
|Izi Rozow's (left) father was |
born in Parafynovo.
Reuvan Barkan(right) is a
member of the Markman
family from Dokshitsy.
Shanah Tovah Umetukah, A Good and Sweet year
|Aaron Ginsburg with Ruti Yariv |
and apples from Parafynovo.
Ruti's father was born