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Musical renewal for Havurah

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High Holidays Services
Led by Maggid Steve Klaper
Wednesday, Sept. 8, Erev Rosh Hashanah service, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 9, Rosh Hashanah
Morning service, 10 a.m.
Potluck lunch
Tashlikh, 1 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 17, Erev Yom Kippur service, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 18, Yom Kippur
Morning service, 10 a.m.
Yizkor, Ne’ila and Break Fast, 7:30 p.m.

The spiritual activities of the Yellow Springs Havurah have always been done in an organized but less than dogmatic manner. The group of 15–20 active members observes the Sabbath each week on the Antioch College campus that informs its friendly tone. The services, while largely in Hebrew, are under an hour, and the potluck meal that follows most events underscores the group’s focus on community. But to mark the High Holidays that begin with Rosh Hashanah next week, the Havurah decided this year to do something a little more formal, albeit Yellow Springs formal, and will host a maggid, or troubadour, to lead the community through a recognition of the Jewish new year.

The wider community is invited to participate in the two-weekend series of holy days, beginning with the eve of Rosh Hashanah on Wednesday, Sept. 8, and ending with a Yom Kippur service on Saturday, Sept. 18. High Holidays is the most reverent period for Jews, who acknowledge it as a time of spiritual cleansing and renewal, according to Havurah members Cheryl Levine, Randi Rothman and Jay Rothman. Maggid Steve Klaper brings a perfect blend of songs, stories and scripture to match the local group’s need for both joyful celebration and spiritual leadership during the most holy period of the year, the organizers said.

Klaper, who owns a graphic design business in Michigan, grew up in an orthodox Jewish home but has done most of his work in reform and renewal Judaism, which brings the playfulness and song of the Hasidic tradition into modern practice, Jay Rothman said. Klaper serves as a traveling rabbi, telling Jewish tales and singing both modern and traditional music, which is unusual especially for a High Holidays service, which is often observed in a heavier, more serious manner without instrumentation, Rothman said. But the Havurah welcomes the joyful spirit they hope Klaper will bring to this important occasion.

Knowing that in Yellow Springs he is likely to encounter an eclectic group, Klaper said in an interview this week that because Jewish “holidays all have a certain flavor, a certain feel and sound, with melodies and chants that only show up at that time of year, as modern, egalitarian and everything else nontraditional” as the local Jewish community may be, “there are always elements of what you remember your grandfather singing, which opens that wing of the palace that’s been closed all year.” It is that music that Klaper will sing and play on his guitar to create a mood that moves people, he said.

Rosh Hashanah marks the first day of the Jewish days of repentance, and Klaper’s service on the eve of the event is expected to be a little over an hour. The following day’s new year service should be just over two hours, followed by a Tashlikh ceremony of casting away sins and a potluck meal at the chapel.

The following weekend’s Yom Kippur service, which is traditionally a day of fasting and meditation, also includes an evening service followed by two services on the holy day, which will include more music and stories, meditation, the Yizkor memorial ceremony and some of the mystical, Kabbalistic traditions that are, according to Klaper, not so much borrowed from the East than they are a forgotten part of Jewish heritage.

Havurah members are excited to be able to bring Klaper to the village and hope to draw both practicing and non-practicing residents to Rockford Chapel to share in the experience, they said. The local Jewish community has organized informally since the 1970s, and the formally associated Havurah has sustained activity for the past 12 years. But that group, which includes Jews, non-Jews and atheists alike, is just a fraction of the perhaps 200 local residents who share a Jewish heritage, either in practice or by ethnicity, according to Jay Rothman’s estimate. Some community members grew up practicing Judaism and deliberately left the faith, and some observe the cultural rights only, while others prefer the more structured religious program they can find at a place such as Temple Shalom in Springfield, he said.

As the local Havurah is a grassroots-led organization, its leaders would like the membership to reflect the breadth of Jewish people who live in Yellow Springs, they said. It is their hope that Klaper’s presentation will interest the wider community and offer ways for villagers to connect with each other.

The Havurah meets every first and third Saturday at Rockford for 10 a.m. Shabbat services. For more information about the High Holidays services or the local Havurah, contact Jay Rothman at 580-5102.

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