This is an unusual travelogue for me.
The afternoon before Rosh Hashanah, I was eating lunch at a Balinese vegan food restaurant with a Frenchman. He was telling me that he had put up a mezuzah on the door of his Balinese hotel room, when three lovely young Indonesian women, sisters from Jakarta, turn from their table and say, “I just couldn’t help but overhearing. Shanah Tova!”
This year I volunteered to serve a small and unusual kehillah (community) in Bali, Indonesia.
Earlier this year, while I was diarising our summer cruise dates, I realised that we would land in Lisbon the morning before Rosh Hashanah. I knew we had a Progressive/Reform kehillah there – Ohel Jakov – as I had had the pleasure of meeting some of the community members four years earlier; and so I contacted their passionate leader and champion – Adriana de Souza – and arranged for us to join them for dinner and a service on Erev Rosh Hashanah, in their proudly sacred space– a five room apartment (up three flights of stairs, in an old building, hidden away in a suburb of Lisbon), which they had recently reorganised, repainted and refreshed. They had a “synagogue”, library, meeting/dining room, office and kitchen with a small balcony.
Soon Jewish families and congregations around the world will be getting together to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. Few are familiar with a Sephardic custom of a Rosh Hashanah Seder – a festive meal rich in symbolism. This new cookbook from the Reform Jewish Community of Madrid (English-language edition) is designed to teach people about this ancient tradition and – for those who are interested in organizing their own Seder – it provides recipes and tools to do it.