Submitted by the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Dawes Park, Evanston
The members of JRC – Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, located at 303 Dodge Ave., have a steadfast ability to face adversity with optimism and ingenuity.
Last year, the congregation called for a reimagined experience of the Jewish High Holidays where congregants could safely hear traditional High Holiday music, listen to the shofar blasts, and most important, participate in rich organic opportunities to be with community. Born out of this necessity, JRC’s Erev Rosh Hashanah Shofar Walk has become a beloved tradition.
The JRC community will once again celebrate the joy of the Jewish New Year by gathering to walk a loop along the Evanston lakefront beginning and ending at Dawes Park.
Seven stations will be set along the path where a small group of congregants will blow their own shofarot for the community.
JRC member, Carol Goldbaum has been sounding her shofar at JRC services since 1973. She says it’s an honor to perform this ritual, but jokes that she’s able to do it because she’s “full of hot air.” Carol owns four shofarot in different sizes but prefers her smallest one. When asked what skills are involved in blowing the shofar, Carol shares that anyone who can play a brass instrument can easily learn to blow the shofar.
“You must purse your lips tightly enough to keep them firm but loose enough to let the sound out. It’s like a kiss to the shofar opening.” says Goldbaum. Carol says she’ll practice each of the shofar calls at least 10 times before JRC’s Shofar Walk at the end of the month.
The blast of the shofar is a call to wake up and to gather. On a spiritual level, it’s a wake up for one’s life, jolting us out of stagnant routine and stimulus for accountability and improvement in the coming year.
At each of the seven stations on JRC’s Shofar Walk, Rabbi Rachel Weiss will do a call and response with her congregation. “It’s as much about the community calling out together and waking each other up, and the community having an opportunity to listen and reflect together” says Weiss.
The JRC Shofar Walk is an innovative way for congregants to connect outdoors, in nature by the lake. This new JRC tradition feels closer to the way our ancient ancestors would have celebrated the New Year, sounding the shofar from mountaintop to mountaintop.
This year, the JRC choir will add an extra element of sweetness to the journey with traditional High Holiday music. Participants are welcome to join for the entire Walk or meet the group at any point along the path. The route is purposely designed to be accessible by wheelchairs, strollers, and scooters. In addition, the entire event will be live-streamed on JRC’s Facebook page.
Last year, the crowd surged to 300-strong. “Part of what we want to model is that there’s more than one way to pray, and there’s more than one way to bring in the New Year. There’s more than one way to celebrate and it’s just as important for people to connect with other people as it is for people to connect with the words in the prayer book. Connecting with other people, is also a legitimate way to connect with God. This ritual really embodies that.” says Weiss. The JRC Erev Rosh Hashanah Shofar Walk is open to all. Bring your shofar and bring friends.
Shofar Walk Route
Starting Point: Dawes Park, Arrington Pavilion (Evanston Lakefront at Sheridan Road between Lake and Church Street)
The route will make a loop from Dawes Park Arrington Pavilion, north to Clark Street Beach, south to Greenwood Street Beach, back to Dawes Lagoon/Arrington Pavilion.
About JRC: JRC is a diverse, participatory, and sacred community dedicated to a daring, deeply rooted Judaism. Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation is known for its cutting-edge approach to creating Jewish Community. Our congregation is imbued with joyful spirituality, intellectual curiosity, inclusivity and deep commitment to social justice. The heart of JRC is our diverse group of members, who find connection and meaning in our rituals, services, vast Jewish learning experiences, community events and abounding opportunities to make lifelong friends. For more information, please visit our website.