Ned Campbell – Gazette Reporter
Photos: Eli Kochman
Young Liam May brought the pointy end of a raw ram’s horn to his mouth, took a deep breath and blew. The high-pitched sound of a French horn came loudly out of the horn, a Jewish instrument also known as a shofar.
“There’s no trick,” the 8-year-old Chatham boy said. “It’s just you have to go …”
He put his lips together and blew a ripple of air through them. “But you have to do it on the side of the mouth.”
“Doing it on the front of your mouth is very hard,” said his dad, William May.
Liam blew into the horn again, a little louder this time.
“See, like that,” he said. “So it’s basically saying ‘help Father’ when they play it, which is G-d.”
Liam helped Rabbi Shmuly Rubin of Schenectady make the shofar Sunday afternoon at Saratoga Chabad’s annual Shalom Festival in Congress Park. The activity was fun, but William May said the family also needed the shofar for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which falls on Sept. 14 and 15 this year. The horn is blown each day to symbolize the opening and closing of the holiday, unless the first day falls on Shabbat, in which case the shofar is blown only on the second day.
The free festival ran from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and featured the Klezmer music of Sruli & Lisa, falafel, kosher hot dogs and pickles and other Jewish soul food, and a variety of vendors of cultural wares.
The event’s goal is to foster Jewish pride and unity and to expose people to the culture, said Rabbi Abba Rubin, Shmuly Rubin’s brother and the festival’s organizer. He estimated that about 1,000 people would attend throughout the day.
“We have to do more good and acts of kindness to make the world a better place,” he said.
The shofar-making table was popular among kids and adults alike, as they took turns drilling holes into the ram’s horns and trying to make them sound.
“People always love making shofars,” Shmuly Rubin said, taking a quick break from sorting, drilling and sanding the horns for a line of customers. The horns were sold at $12 each to pay for the craft, he said.
Eddie Miller of Saratoga Springs waited patiently as Rubin drilled holes into a few curvy ram horns before finding one straight enough to drill a deeper hole into.
“He put a hard day’s work into this,” Miller, 59, said.
Miller said he has heard shofars blowing for as long as he can remember — at temple and at sundown on the high holidays — going back to his childhood days in Brooklyn. He said he won’t be blowing the shofar on a regular basis, “but I’ll play around with it a little bit.”
He tried blowing into it. Unable to get the full sound Liam produced — instead making a faint breathy noise — he laughed.
“It’s tradition,” he said. “Remember Joshua and the walls of Jericho, when the walls came tumbling down? That was a thousand shofars blowing.”