The Chabad Jewish Center of Naples was buzzing Sunday about the significance of the approaching Jewish new year holiday, Rosh Hashana, and its traditions.
Local beekeeper, B. Keith Councell, taught Chabad Hebrew school students about the lives of bees and how honey, a traditional Jewish holiday food, is produced and processed.
The Chabad Jewish Center — located at 850 Seagate Drive — provides educational and social services for the Jewish community of Collier County.
Rosh Hashanah, which begins this Friday at sunset and ends at sunset on Sunday, is celebrated by festive meals and traditional kosher foods that symbolize hopes for the new year.
Apples dipped in honey symbolize a sweet new year.
“We want to have a sweet new year this month,” said Yonatan Melnick, a 12-year-old Hebrew school student.
Round Challah bread, which symbolizes the cyclical ups and downs of life, and pomegranates are two other traditional foods.
“Pomegranates have 613 seeds, and there are 613 commandments,” said Rabbi Fishel Zaklos, director of the Chabad Jewish Center. “So we say that no matter how you observe and how you relate to your Jewish heritage, every person is still beautiful and has 613 commandments.”
Councell answered questions, handed out beeswax candles and talked about interesting bee facts. He explained that bees lack an immune system, that they give each other directions to pollinating flowers by waggle dancing and that a bee larvae develops into a queen when it is fed royal jelly, or “bee spit.”
“I’ve never seen a bee that didn’t sting,” said Maxwell Coleman, an 11-year-old Hebrew school student. “I learned what (bee) eggs look like and how to spot a queen because it has a white dot on its back.”
After Councell cut out the honey from the waxy comb with a hot knife, he put the honey and comb mixture into a hand-powered machine called an extractor in order to isolate the honey.
Most of the students got a chance to turn the handle of the extractor, and then they tasted the honey they helped extract.
Zaklos said he tries to incorporate hands-on experiences such as honey extraction into the Hebrew school curriculum because it ignites the students’ interest in learning about the traditions and meanings of the Jewish holidays.
Another important tradition of Rosh Hashana is the blowing of the Shofar — a musical instrument that is typically made from a ram’s horn — throughout the day.
“It’s a wake-up call to tell us that we got to start doing good. We got to start making sure that there are good deeds that surpass our negative deeds,” Zaklos said.
Last year, the Chabad of Naples hosted a program on how Shofars are made.
“This year to bring in new excitement and a new twist to it, we brought in the beekeeper, which was really a big hit,” Zaklos said.
The Jewish new year is held on a different date than the secular new year because the Jews use the Jewish calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar, which is used by most of the western world.
Similar to the tradition of the secular new year holiday, the Jewish new year is a time for an individual to reflect on the previous year and make resolutions about improving their life in the following year.
“I’m going to start being nicer to my sister because we fight a lot,” said Ryan Price, an 11-year-old Hebrew school student.