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Reflecting on the High Holidays

October 7, 2012
By KATHRYN SPIRA , The Leader Herald

I recently celebrated the Jewish High Holidays, starting with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year or, literally, "Head of the Year," and Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement.

This year, the holidays fell on Sept. 17 and 26, respectively. It is the year 5773, according to the Jewish calendar.

My first experience with these holidays began at Park Synagogue in Cleveland, where I grew up. I went to Hebrew school there three days a week after elementary classes, and to this day I can still read Hebrew (although I may not get the translation right, I can pronounce the Hebrew words correctly phonetically), and I know all the traditional hymns and songs by heart.

When I first moved to New York City, I attended a conservative synagogue on the upper west side. (The gradations of liberal to conservative beliefs in synagogues are in three main categories, with the most liberal being Reformed, then Conservative; the most conservative is called Orthodox. There is an even more conservative group called Hasidic Jews, who wear black clothing and don't cut their hair.)

I was very connected to the synagogue in Cleveland, where there is a strong Jewish community, but not so much in New York City, because I wasn't from there and I was pursuing my acting career.

The same can be said about my experiences in Los Angeles, where I only attended synagogue on High Holidays. In Cleveland, I was in synagogue on Sabbaths weekly. In New York and L.A., I was more like the "Christmas and Easter Christians" that Herman has told me about - those who rarely attend church except on those holidays.

When I moved to upstate New York, Herman recommended I attend more regularly and get back in touch with my Jewish roots, and I have tried to do so since I moved here in 1995.

My MS doesn't always allow me to go as often as I'd like to, but I'm happy to say the congregation at Knesseth Israel Synagogue in Gloversville has been very friendly and receptive, so to some extent I've come full circle.

And even though I'm a long way from Cleveland, by the circuitous route of New York City and Los Angeles, I can truly say this place now feels like home.

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in New York City and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Her previous columns and contact information can be found at her website,



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