Joe Warner – South Jersey Times
The Chabad of Gloucester County gave children a hands-on lesson about the Jewish new year Sunday afternoon with a demonstration that taught children how to make their own shofars.
The shofar, a musical instrument made of a ram’s horn, is an iconic symbol of the Jewish high holidays. The horns, which vary in size and decoration, are often prominently displayed in synagogues and homes around Rosh Hashanah. The goal behind the workshop, according to Rabbi Avi Richler, was to instill the tradition of what is usually a solemn holiday in the children of the congregation.
Rosh Hashanah is usually a reflective period during which adult observers carefully consider their experiences and decisions of the past year. But that does not mean it has to go over the heads of younger Jews, said Richler.
“High holidays are often synonymous with synagogues and prayer,” he said, which can sometimes mean the observance makes no impression on small children. “We want to make this memorable for them. We can pass on the traditions by making them ask questions. That’s what stays with them.”
Richler spared his 20 students the five-hour preparation time of boiling a ram’s horn and hollowing out the cartilage inside. The children worked hard, however, sanding down the horns until they were smooth enough to for a protective finish, with Richler leading them in the slogan “shofar, sho good” with each new step. A properly made shofar produces a low, plaintive tone that has taken a prominent place in millennia of Jewish history.
“It sounds like wailing,” Richler said. “It reminds us to come to God as children, and to reflect on our ways. The shofar is also blown at the coronation of kings, so when we blow it, we crown God as our king.”
Amelia and Jacob Rodriguez of Washington Township had seen ornate shofars on display at their cousins’ house for years before making their own.
“When I played it, I liked it,” said Amelia, 9. “It looks really cool, and I liked sanding and painting it.”
The family has just joined the congregation.
“They see that religion isn’t all about fire and brimstone,” said Amelia’s father, Harry. “It’s about people coming together.”
You see these [shofars] every year. They’re very special, and now they see them made from scratch.”
Like Richler, he hoped the craft would help his children remember Rosh Hashanah in the future.
“They’re able to mix in how it’s done with the religious aspect,” he said.
The Chabad of Gloucester County will hold a Rosh Hashanah service on Sept. 26 at the Mullica Hill Grange, 78 N. Main St., at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s a small community,” Richler said. “But even in Mullica Hill, it’s a community thirsty to learn about it traditions.”