By Karen Schwartz, Chabad.org and COLlive.com
This year, for the first time since September 11, 2001, Rosh Hashanah and the tragic day on which almost 3,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks overlapped.
Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis marked the day with shows of unity, public memorials and shofar-blowing.
“What the shofar represents, the sound of the shofar is a call to come home, to return. We all have to remember our roots, where we come from, and that we’re all human beings created in the image of Hashem,” says Yaakov Wilansky, director of CTeen & Friendship Circle Programs for the Chabad of Roslyn in Roslyn Heights, N.Y.
He made a special stop on Tuesday to blow the shofar in front of the fire station, which lost two brothers, Peter and Thomas Langone, who were among the first responders on 9/11.
“Rosh Hashanah is called the day of remembrance… it’s a day of remembrance, so we want to pay tribute and also remember the fallen, to acknowledge the volunteers and pay tribute to them,” he explains. “On this day of Rosh Hashanah, we want to bless them to have a safe and sweet new year, that they should know no more sorrow.”
On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky, director of Chabad of Great Neck, N.Y., led area dignitaries and community members in a memorial service for those killed in the attacks. Many Great Neck residents lost family members on that tragic day—a large number of its residents commute to Manhattan for work.
From its Saddle Rock Bridge, people could see the Twin Towers, including the day it went down in flames.
“When 9/11 happened, people were standing there and crying for an entire week, for an entire month,” says Geisinsky, who has been director at the Chabad for nearly three decades.
And so, on Tuesday, they met on the bridge, which has become the memorial for 9/11 in Great Neck. They sang a few Rosh Hashanah songs, blew the shofar and said Kaddish as part of a memorial for those who died that day.
In past years, says Geisinsky, they have joined with the community for memorial services and held Shabbat events centered on Sept. 11 remembrance. “If we remember the past, we will be better, we will do better in the future,” he says. “Obviously, this is an opportunity, that it comes out around Rosh Hashanah, to see what evil is and how we can make the world a better place.”
Rabbi Yaakov Raskin, co-director of the Chabad of Huntington Village on New York’s Long Island, took part in a memorial on Sunday afternoon, ahead of Rosh Hashanah.
Forty-three local residents were killed on Sept. 11, so the day has a very personal feel for the community, he says. Area dignitaries were in attendance at Heckscher Park, one of Huntington Village’s largest parks. “We want to add good,” he says. “Rosh Hashanah is the perfect time to add more light into the world.”
Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, the retired U.S. Army chaplain, served at the time as the senior military Chaplain at Ground Zero. “I was responsible for the religious and moral issues affecting all military members assigned to Ground Zero Mission,” he recalls.
Several hours after the attack at the World Trade Center, Rabbi Goldstein was one of the thousands of fellow soldiers who were mobilized to report there for duty and he remained there over Rosh Hashana.
“I lived at Ground Zero for the first 4 months sleeping with fellow soldiers in Bowling Green Park which is nearby,” he recalls. “The Mission was difficult but the Unit Ministry Teams did an outstanding job.”
On the Jewish Day of Judgement, Rabbi Goldstein stood on the street with a Machzor to recite Rosh Hashana prayers and then blew the shofar with the burned buildings of Tower 4, 5 and 6 in the background.
“America should take pride in the mission that all who served at Ground Zero accomplished,” he said.