Yom Kippur marks ‘holiest day’ of Jewish community

Meadow Vista man mends a relationship on spiritual quest
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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As a way of navigating through this journey of repentance and introspection, Louis Sigmond’s rabbi gave his study group a “High Holy Days Bucket List” worksheet asking: Who do I need to apologize to, who do I need to forgive and how do I want to feel after? Sigmond, a 75-year-old Meadow Vista retiree, admitted he never actually filled it out, but he said he already knew what he needed to do. He apologized to a neighbor for his part in a past argument and surprised him with a gift card to a restaurant. “He was really surprised and said, ‘You didn’t have to do that,’ and I told him, ‘I know, but I could tell you were still aggravated at what happened, so I felt the need to amend for my action,’” Sigmond said. “So now … I think we can be a little bit more civil and greet one another a little more cordially. I think that’s a big accomplishment.” Tonight’s Yom Kippur services will mark the end of the Jewish High Holy Days, a 10-day period that began with Rosh Hashana. Alan Greenbaum, rabbi of the Reform Judaism temple B’Nai Harim in Grass Valley, said today is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish community. Services at B’Nai Harim begin at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. today, and Greenbaum said he expects the temple to reach its 140 capacity – about quadruple that of a normal service. Today will complete the process of taking “an account of the soul where we examine our lives with a rare candor and honesty,” Greenbaum said. It can be a mentally taxing process and “counterintuitive to human nature,” he said, forcing people to ask tough questions of themselves and identify imperfections of character and relationships that need to be strengthened. “It is a very intense period of time,” Greenbaum said. “We always have to be mindful of what we do and what we say with others; it’s just hard to sustain for long periods of time. “It’s the same with the flip side. Try being happy 24/7.” Although it is a somber day, it is also uplifting to see the community come together and worship in large numbers, he said. B’Nai Harim’s overall membership consists of about 100 families, and the temple draws people from Sacramento, Auburn and Marysville as well, said Jay Sondheim, president of the congregation. Sondheim said some members will fast from the beginning of Tuesday night’s 7 p.m. service until the end of today’s final service, which ends with the blowing of the shofar, a ram’s horn. “As a tradition, those of us who do fast will bring the nonperishable portion of the meal that we’re not going to eat to the temple, and we donate that to the food bank,” he said, adding that Saturday is the temple’s major fundraising event where they convert Miners Foundry Cultural Center in Nevada City into an all-you-can-eat sandwich deli. Sigmond said he hopes his spiritual efforts, such as mending a rift with his neighbor, will lead to a positive future. “On the final day here, Yom Kippur, I’ll say ‘OK God, I tried to live to your commandments, and I’ve tried to correct those that I could correct, so please forgive me at this particular time,” he said. “Put me in the book of life so I can have a good year – a year that I will still be living,” Sigmond said with a laugh. “And I think as I personally get older, it’s more meaningful, and I realize that, as to my age, not too long from now I might not be around. I’ll be coming in front of God and be able to say to him ‘I try to do the best I could.’” Jon Schultz can be reached at