Jews reflect on
High Holy Days

by Robyn Jackson
American Features Editor

Hattiesburg, MS - Reflection is on the minds of Pine Belt Jews as they observe the High Holy Days.

Cukierkorn, a native of Brazil, came to Hattiesburg from a synagogue in Gastonia N.C., in January. “I think Hattiesburg is a beautiful place”, he said. “It is a place that has lots of potential for growth. It has lots of different cultural opportunities.”

The 10 day period of reflection began at sundown Monday with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and ends Thursday with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews communally admit their sins and reconcile with God.

Terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11 have added a special poignancy to the days of reflection and atonement this year.

The congregation of Temple B'nai Israel in Hattiesburg will hold a memorial service at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Jewish cemetery located within Highland Cemetery on West Seventh Street.

"Once a year in between Rosh Hashana, which is when we celebrate the birthday of humanity, and Yom Kippur, which is the day of atonement, we think about the people who are not with us anymore," said Rabbi Celso Cukierkorn. "This year we will also have a special prayer for the victims of the tragedy."

There will also be a Kol Nidre service at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Mamie Street synagogue, and a day of prayer and fasting from morning to evening Thursday. Cukierkorn said many in his congregation have sought him out for prayer and discussion of the terrorist attacks. "This is a time where people need more prayer and spiritual support," Cukierkorn said. "I've been ordained since '97 and in these years I've never had a time when so many people have called on me. No one was prepared to cope with this tragedy."

Cukierkorn, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, has been rabbi of Temple B'nai Israel for about six months. He experienced terrorism while living in Israel and studying to become a rabbi. "Our brothers in Israel have been dealing with the same kind of terrorism since the establishment of the Jewish state” Cukierkorn said. "Last year, exactly at this time of year, we saw things getting worse. One thing that I discuss with my family there (in Israel), is the moral obligation they have to show that life does go on, otherwise it is a victory to those terrorists. When we face that death can occur so suddenly, we should feel that we are called to life every day."

A new year is always a good time for introspection, and the recent tragedy has a lot of people - Jews and non- Jews alike - examining their lives.

"The whole concept of the High Holy Days is that we make self- examination. It is a time when we see the ways we have sinned and erred. We try to repent and ask forgiveness from the people we have wronged," Cukierkorn said. "It is the most important Jewish holy day."

From the September 22, 2001 issue of the The Hattiesburg American.