Day of Atonement services begin

Of the Jewish holy days, Yom Kippur is considered the 'holiest of the holy'

Posted: Sunday, October 05, 2003

Jews in Juneau who celebrated the Jewish new year last weekend, in Rosh Hashanah, will fast and attend services this weekend for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.

Services will start at 7:30 tonight with the Kol Nidre service. Sundown will mark the beginning of a 25-hour fast for Jews.

"Sunday night is the major event of the year," said Norman Cohen, president of the Juneau Jewish Community. "Yom Kippur is the holiest of the holy and the Sunday night service is the big one."

Services will continue Monday with a morning service at 10 a.m., a children's service at 3 p.m., an afternoon service at 5 p.m. and a concluding service at 6 p.m. A potluck feast to break the fast will follow the concluding service.

All services are at the Northern Light United Church on 11th Street downtown.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are separated by the Days of Awe, during which time Jews are required to ask forgiveness of people they have wronged during the year. During the Yom Kippur service, Jews ask forgiveness from God.

"The whole idea here is to repent for your sins and to do better next year," said Cohen.

About 80 Juneau residents are active members of the Juneau Jewish Community, Cohen said. In addition to celebrating holidays, the group organizes social events such as pool parties and ice skating.

"The major challenge is that we don't have a rabbi and we don't have a building," he said.

The community flies different rabbis to Juneau about four times a year for major Jewish holidays, Cohen said. Rabbi Mark Shapiro, a retired rabbi from Chicago, will officiate the Yom Kippur services. This is the first time Shapiro has officiated a service in Juneau.

Cohen has lived in Juneau for about 20 years and said the Juneau Jewish Community has been active since well before he came to town.

"There's the Goldstein Building downtown, Gross Theaters, so there's been a Jewish presence here since the late 1800s," he said.

Though Jewish services in the community often are attended by a core group of longtime Juneau residents, new people always are welcome at the services, Cohen said.

• Christine Schmid can be reached at

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