Another New Year

Posted on October 5th, 2016 by

There are so many ways to count the year. Each of us celebrates at least a half a dozen new years every year. There’s January first, of course. But there’s also a fiscal new year (at the JMM, that is July 1). There’s also your birthday (mine is February 14, in case you were wondering). For folks in school or who teach school or who have kids in school, there’s the first day of the new school year. And then there are the Jewish New Years. There’s the first day of the year, in Nissan (the same month as Passover). And there’s Tu B’Shvat, the “new year for the trees.” And, of course, there is Rosh Hashanah.

Jewish New Years card from the Sigel family, c. 1900. JMM 1989.132.1

Jewish New Years card from the Sigel family, c. 1900. JMM 1989.132.1

The “head of the year” is actually the first day of the seventh month. So though we refer to it to our non-Jewish neighbors as the “Jewish New Year,” it’s more nuanced than that. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, in his book Seasons of Our Joy speculates, “perhaps it is the head of the year because it is raised toward heaven, away from the earth–while Pesach [in the first month of the year] celebrates a more earthly liberation, the freedom of our bodies” (1-2).

That distinction between the heavenly and the earthly is interesting. Unlike our secular New Year, when we all make resolutions to lose weight or quit smoking or eat healthier, at Rosh Hashanah, we are expected to make a different kind of resolution. Instead of more trips to the gym, we aim for fewer trips to judgement; rather than counting calories, we are meant to count blessings.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of a new year, and about human capacity for change. Whether the resolution is to lose 10 pounds or to be kinder, we humans seem nearly incapable of making true and lasting change. On January first and on the first of Tishri, each year, we find ourselves in nearly the exact same situation as the year before. Even as we make the resolutions (or the confessions), we do so knowing that we will falter again–we will be right here next year. We do a dance with ourselves and with the Divine, but in the end, we always fail.

It is a depressing thought as I sit here writing on the third of Tishri.

And yet.

On this Rosh Hashanah, I had the honor of the third Aliyah at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, chanting the blessings before and after the third Torah portion was read. I delivered the blessings as intended, and received greetings from my fellow congregants and the clergy. It was lovely, and I felt truly grateful. But it was a moment as I returned to my place in the congregation that truly dispelled my recent feelings of hopelessness: my four-year-old daughter met me in the aisle, and jumped into my arms, smiling ear to ear.

The best traveling companion I could imagine.

The best traveling companion I could imagine.

As I returned to my seat in the sanctuary, now carrying 36 pounds of joy, love, and limitless potential, I felt something even before I had words for it. Yes, I am in the same place I found myself last year. I am confessing the same sins; mourning the same injustices of the past year; committing in the same way to nearly the same actions as last year. But I am not the same because she is not the same.

I intentionally brought that 4-year-old to the “grown-up” service, because I wanted her to see me fully engaged in synagogue life. I wanted her to see that striving that brings us all back to that place of commitment, year after year.

Seeing the service, the holiday, reflected in her eyes reminded me powerfully of the importance of the journey. I was mourning the destination and lost sight of the beauty of travel. That small voice in my ear “Mommy, I love you!” reminded me that while the destination is worth striving for, if I forget to notice my traveling companions, I can never reach it.

With gratitude to all of you on the road with me, I wish you a Shanah Tovah u’Metucha, a good and a sweet new year.

A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

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JMM DATEBOOK: September 2014

Posted on September 24th, 2014 by

Happy New Year from the JMM!

1991.009.005 small

1991.9.5 May you have peace, substantial earned income, good business success,enjoyment, happiness, salvation, pleasantness and everything good. – Rosh Hashonah greetings in Yiddish and Hebrew from August 30, 1917.

We have the perfect way to start the new year off right – by helping the Museum THIS SUNDAY at the Maryland Public Television telethon from 5pm – 8pm. We have gathered a core group of volunteers but could still use more help! Volunteers only need to answer phones for people calling to pledge and take down their information. Plus MPT will be providing kosher meals for all our volunteers.

This is an important opportunity for the Museum to reach out to a broad audience and particularly to share the news about The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit. To volunteer please email Rachel Kassman ( by NOON on Sunday, September 28th and join in on the fun!
L’Shana Tova!

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Celebrating Rosh Hashanah: Grandma Hilda’s Chocolate and White Cake

Posted on September 21st, 2012 by

A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin.

It’s erev Rosh Hashanah and as I arrive at my parents’ house for our family meal (and by family I mean all 30+ of our nearest and dearest) to kick off the holiday celebration, I am overwhelmed by the delicious aroma of dinner – homemade gefilte fish, brisket, turkey, and all the trimmings.  It’s true that for many, it’s the traditional foods that hold center court – kreplach (check out Esther Weiner’s recent blog post for her wonderful recipe at http://?s=kreplach), matzah ball soup, gefilte fish. For me, however, it’s all about the dessert. And not just any dessert, but Grandma Hilda’s chocolate and white cake.

Grandma Hilda’s Chocolate and White Cake at the dessert table.

While I have fond memories of many of my grandmother’s meals (fried chicken, spaghetti and meatballs, and let’s not forget the iceberg salad wedge!), it is her famous cake that has lived on as a must-have at family celebrations including birthdays and holiday meals. I have shared the recipe with many friends who are always delighted by how easy it is to make and how wonderful it tastes.

Recipe for Hilda Edelman’s Chocolate and White Cake

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter*

3 eggs

3 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

1 cup milk*

1 ½ tsp. vanilla

¾ can chocolate syrup

¼ tsp. baking soda

Cream together sugar and butter, blend in eggs. In two separate bowls, mix together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) and liquid ingredients (milk and vanilla). Alternate adding dry and liquid ingredients to sugar mixture. Begin and end with dry ingredients. Pour 2/3 of the batter into a well-greased and lightly floured tube pan. Add chocolate syrup and baking soda to remaining batter. Spoon chocolate batter over white batter in pan. Do not mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and ten minutes.

*To make a pareve version, substitute margarine and coffee rich for butter and milk.

See how pretty it looks inside!

Best wishes to everyone for a sweet and happy new year!

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