By Alexander Dworkowitz
Yom Kippur, already the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, has taken on an especially somber tone this year in Queens and around the nation in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
The mood is reflected both in the speeches given by rabbis as well as the security surrounding the synagogues.
“One of the highlights of Yom Kippur is a memorial service,” said Rabbi Manfred Gams of the Orthodox Congregation Machane Chodosh in Forest Hills. “This year it will be brought forward to a great extent.”
Rabbi Bruce Goldwasser of the Reform Temple Beth Sholom of Flushing shared Gams’ sentiment.
“The idea of the fast is to afflict our souls so that our bodies become related to our spiritual quests,” said Goldwasser. “I think it’s a lot more important this year.”
Throughout Queens, police precincts have also made sure to send officers to guard the synagogues during services for the Day of Atonement, which was to begin Wednesday night and end at sundown Thursday.
“I’ve found that the NYPD has always gone out of their way to be protective of our religious institutions,” Goldwasser said, adding that he was happy to see the police presence.
Goldwasser stressed that the 109th Precinct stationed three officers at his synagogue during Rosh Hashanah and he expected the same for Yom Kippur. “The police have been absolutely wonderful considering the drain on manpower,” he said.
Rabbi Sholom Steinig of Young Israel of Bayside also had praise for the police at the 111th Precinct.
“The 111th is really wonderful,” he said. “Every year before the holidays, they’re in touch with us before we’re in touch with them.”
Asked about whether he was worried about the safety of the synagogue at 26th Avenue in Bay Terrace, he said “there’s a concern, but it’s a universal concern.”
Among many synagogues, an especially important theme this year during the holy days is the need for charity in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
“Any human charity is by definition a Jewish charity,” said Steinig said. He has been asking his congregation for donations for New York’s firemen, among others.
Attendance in many Queens synagogues was up for Rosh Hashanah services, and many rabbis expected an equally good turnout for Yom Kippur as the borough tries to recover from the World Trade Center disaster. At a Rosh Hashanah service at Rabbi Gams’ Forest Hills temple which usually attracts 150 people some 600 people attended, Gams said.
“It’s a season when people reawaken to their religious sources,” Steinig said.
Reach Reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.