Casting their Differences Upon the Water

Four West Valley synagogues representing three different denominations — the Calabasas Shul (Orthodox), Temple Solael (Reform), Temple Aliyah and Shomrei Torah (Conservative) — will join together for a Tashlich ceremony Sunday, Sept. 19, at the Westlake Village Marina.

“The goal was to find a mitzvah where we could stand united before God as we approach the end of the High Holidays,” said Rabbi Yakov Vann, spiritual leader of the Calabasas Shul. “We’re well aware of our differences, but the beauty of performing this mitzvah can bring us together.”

Tashlich is a custom that takes place between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, in which Jews visit a flowing body of water, e.g. a river, lake or ocean, and symbolically cast away their sins by throwing bread crumbs into the water in accordance with the Biblical commandment, “You will cast [tashlich] your sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:10). Once relegated to the traditionally observant, the ceremony has seen a resurgence in popularity among Jews of all denominations and even the unaffiliated.

“It’s a perfect ritual in that it expresses for all of us the notion that we want to rid ourselves of behavior that estranges us from other human beings, God and even ourselves,” Rabbi Ron Herstik of Temple Solael said. “These are the relationships we need to consider during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.”

Herstik credited Temple Aliyah’s Rabbi Stewart Vogel with coming up with the idea for the shared ceremony. Vogel and the three rabbis from the other synagogues have been making an effort to meet periodically for lunch at a local kosher restaurant.

“I knew all the rabbis but they did not all know each other,” Vogel explained. “Rabbi Camras [of Shomrei Torah] is new to the community, and Rabbi Herstik and Rabbi Vann have only been here a few years. So we decided to get together at Tiberias and share our experiences in order to better understand and appreciate each other. We wanted our congregations to experience that type of sharing and this [tashlich] naturally lends itself to inclusion by everybody. It was a natural.”

Vogel said he hopes to see such joint programming grow among Valley synagogues.

“We are all working for the same thing and each congregation has something unique to offer,” he said.

Sunday’s ceremony will take place near the Sail Club at the Westlake Marina in Westlake Village. For directions or further information, call Temple Aliyah at (818) 346-3545.