Forest Hills Jews set to celebrate Rosh Hashanah

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Residents throughout the borough will ring in the Jewish new year this weekend with much song, prayer and, of course, the blowing of the shofar.

More than 100 people are expected at three Rosh Hashanah services at Yeshiva Har Torah in Little Neck this weekend. Rabbi Eli Schifrin of Yeshiva Har Torah said in addition to the three services, there will be two children’s programs that will include prayers, games and activities centered around Rosh Hashanah, the first of the Jewish High Holy Days. Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown Friday and ends at nightfall Sunday.

There will be a 7 p.m. evening service Friday at Yeshiva Har Torah and services at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Children’s programs will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and the blowing of the shofar will occur at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

The shofar, an instrument traditionally made from a ram’s horn, is blown on Rosh Hashanah to symbolize the waking up of individuals in an effort to get them to focus on repentance.

As many as 60 individuals are expected to attend the Queens Community for Cultural Judaism’s Rosh Hashanah celebration at the Atria Forest Hills at 112-50 72nd Ave. from about 2:30 p.m. until around 6 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s an evaluation of the past year, and we see how we’ve done and if we can aim a little higher as human beings,” Edward Klein, leader of the QCCJ, said of the secular ceremony his group has been performing for about two decades.

Nina Gordon, the QCCJ vice president and musical director, said the “non-traditional service” will include poetry readings and such music as John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

“The focus is on having a cultural celebration of the new year as an opportunity for renewal,” Gordon said.

The Forest Hills-based Queens Jewish Community Council helped borough residents prepare for Rosh Hashanah this past Sunday and Monday, and the group gave away about 650 holiday food packages that include items like challah bread, honey and grape juice. Packages also include fresh vegetables like potatoes, apples, carrots and onions.

The packages go to families who are struggling financially and QJCC President Cynthia Zalisky said there has been a 20 percent increase in the number of people who have turned to her group for help with Rosh Hashanah preparation. The group gave out about 450 baskets by Monday morning and their supplies had been depleted by Tuesday.

“Many more people are coming this year than last year,” Zalisky said. “It’s very sad.”

Still, Zalisky hopes the packages help to provide a sense of solace to families in need.

“We want to give them a sense of holiday spirit and help with the purchasing of the items,” she said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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