Cleaning the beach becomes a new Rosh Hashanah tradition

About 20 members of Temple Emanuel in Greater New Haven congregation gathered at the Altshculer in West Haven, Connecticut recently to put a twist on the Rosh Hashanah tradition known as Tashlich, which takes place on the first day of the Jewish new year. During that ceremony, Jews symbolically cast off their sins of the previous year by throwing them in the water. The sins are represented by pebbles or crumbs of bread.

This year, however, on Oct. 2, members of the Orange, Connecticut shul joined 244 communities around the world in taking part in a new international program called Reverse Tashlich. Temple Emanuel is one of five Connecticut organizations involved with program, created by an organization called Repair the Sea, based in Tampa, Florida. “We’ve always talked about ‘repairing the world’ as part of our duties as part of the Jewish community, especially around the new year,” said Karen Fenichel, a Temple Emanuel congregant who helped organize the soul’s Reverse Tashlich day. “This is a very real way for entire families to participate in ‘repairing the world.’”

Fenichel and Adam Spiewak, who also helped organize the Temple Emanuel event, worked with Save the Sound, a New Haven-based environmental action group that donated supplies and obtained the permits from the City of West Haven to do the work on the beach. Those filling bags with trash collected from the beach included Temple Emanuel’s rabbi, Michael Farbman, who told those gathered that during Rosh Hashanah Jews would read about creation in the Torah. “We’ll be reading,

‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,’” the rabbi quoted. “It was beautiful and it was clean. Today we get to restore that a little bit. We get to participate in the act of creation ourselves.” During the Reverse Tashlich event, teams of families and friends walked along the beach, gathering empty cups, wrappers, bottles, cans and cigarette butts. Cigarette butts carried extra value because of their toxic nature and plastic content. In all, the group filled five bags with debris from the beach. The bags of trash were then turned over to the city.

Fenichel and Spiewak tallied up the garbage in the bags and sent the report to Repair the Sea. The program sponsors use the information to help with scientific research and to help write legislation and policies that address pollution. “A day on the beach is a great way to celebrate the beginning of the world and the beginning of the year,” said Fenichel. “It’s a great way for our community – families and friends – to spend some time. This year was small, but a success. We hope it’ll be a new tradition for our congregation."

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