Rosh Hashanah events throughout Denver mark the arrival of Judaism’s high holiday season — including a Monday morning service that Judaism Your Way anticipates will bring nearly 2,000 people to the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Jewish new year, and brings with it a focus on reflection and beginning anew. This year, the celebration begins on Sunday night and carries on through Tuesday. Yom Kippur, which closes the high holiday season, starts the week after Rosh Hashanah, on Tuesday, Sept. 18.
Judaism Your Way puts on several services each year for Rosh Hashanah. Executive director Wendy Aronson said her organization is an outreach organization, not a synagogue, and so their events are good entry points for many Jews who may not be very involved in their faith and other unaffiliated people that are interested in participating. The organization hosts several events at Denver Botanic over the three-day holiday, including guided prayer walks and forgiveness workshops.
“Part of what we know in Denver is we have a very high rate of intermarriage,” she said, “and part of what’s so amazing and wonderful about our service is it’s so welcoming to anyone that comes.”
Judaism Your Way started hosting services more than a decade ago with about 14 people in a University of Denver dorm common area. They then bounced around for a little bit before they made the gardens their home, and they’ve been there for the past five years. “Nature really adds and elevates the spiritual experiences, and a lot of folks that are coming to us are looking for that,” Aronson said.
Aronson said Rosh Hashanah is a period in which she can think and reflect, something she doesn’t often get to do.
“For me, what I would say is, I’m a parent of two small kids. Having time to reflect in my day to day life never happens. So many Americans are running like crazy — busy jobs, busy lives, trying to provide the best for their kids and families. To just have a moment in the calendar where you can stop and think and focus on your breath and what’s truly important, just popping in your headspace for that is super important.”
Brian Fields, the founding rabbi of Judaism Your Way, said these practices began in the Jewish tradition well before there was an American lifestyle.
“Any spiritual practice will have these things in it,” he said. “So Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish time for that. To feel that deep human need for renewal, for self-assessment, for opportunities to begin anew and freshness. For change and forgiveness.”
He also noted that the aesthetic of the service might in and of itself may make it an intriguing reason for those interested to stop by. At several of their services, they will be blowing a shofar — a super loud ram’s horn, if you’ve never seen one — as well as reading from the Torah.
“What’s cool about Jewish service is that our scriptures aren’t in the form of a book but rather in the form of a scroll,” Fields said.
If you’re looking for something more traditional, the Hebrew Educational Alliance synagogue may have you covered.
“We are a conservative cogeneration, which means kind of the middle of the road, and so our services are quite traditional with one exception,” said Neal Price, the Hebrew Educational Alliance’s executive director. “As an egalitarian congregation, both men and women take part in our worship and leading the service from our pulpit area.”
Their synagogue will be hosting two services: one that is a more traditional approach with rabbis and a Cantor leading most of the praying and singing during the ceremony, and one that is a new, more communal and abridged service which they’ve named Shir Hadash. That service will be filled with singing and has a little more of a family-friendly feel, Price said. For Shir Hadash they expect about 500 to 700 attendees, and for the more traditional service, they expect about 1,600 to 1,800 people to turn out.
The Hebrew Educational Alliance is located at 3600 S. Ivanhoe St in Denver. Their main services will be held pretty much all day on Monday and they ask that no one enter or leave during the sermon portion of the service, which begins at 10:45. More information regarding service times and parking information can be found here.
Judaism Your Way will be hosting their services at the Botanic Gardens located at 1007 York St. in Denver. Their main service will be held on Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you would like to find out more about the festivities, check out the rest of their schedule here.