Tova Rapoport, right, demonstrates how to bake round challah for Rosh Hashanah at the Chabad Lubavitch Center in Margate.

Staff photo by Edward Lea

MARGATE — Tova Rapoport wants to ensure a fresh start for the new year.

With the holiday of Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish New Year — approaching, the Margate resident invited a dozen women to the Chabad Lubavitch Center on Fulton Avenue on Wednesday to teach them how to bake round challah.

Though challah is traditionally a braided bread made every week for the Sabbath, on Rosh Hashanah it is customary to make round loaves to signify the cycle of the year.

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It is also customary to add a few extra ingredients.

“For Rosh Hashanah, we want to have a sweet year,” Rapoport told the group. “We’ll put in raisins or add honey to make it sweet. This one has cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top. The house also smells delicious when you have cinnamon and sugar.”

The holiday will begin at sundown Sunday and conclude Tuesday night. Jews, who follow the lunar calendar, will observe the holiday for two days. It is also the start of the “Ten Days of Repentance,” when Jews will ask God for forgiveness from their sins. The 10-day period ends on Yom Kippur — a day of atonement — which begins at sundown Sept. 25 and concludes the night of Sept. 26.

Rosh Hashanah is often considered a time of new beginnings, and Jews have special customs such as wearing new clothing or eating a new fruit they hadn’t eaten in the past year. Another custom is eating apples and honey for a sweet new year.

Rapoport said the holiday is also a good time to reflect on the past year and focus on ways to improve for the upcoming year. During services at local synagogues, the congregation will hear a shofar — a large horn — blown. Rapoport said it symbolizes a king being crowned and that Jews should think about God and remember he is the king of the world.

“It’s a way to connect to God and do what he asks us to do,” she said.

The women assembled Wednesday said they don’t usually bake challah during the year, but they feel it’s important to make it for the holiday.

Ventnor resident Liz Stern said she incorporates her mental preparation for the holiday into the baking.

“It’s a process,” she said. “You think of things as you make the dough.”

Margate resident Mindelle Pierce said baking challah connects her to her ancestors.

“I’m keeping a tradition that’s thousands of years old,” she said. “This is what the women in my family did for generations.”

Rabbis are also preparing their special messages for the holiday.

Rabbi Alfredo Winter of Beth Israel Congregation in Vineland said on the first day of Rosh Hashanah he will encourage prayer among his congregants — some of whom only attend synagogue on the special holidays.

“It’s a good time for people to reconnect with God and their faith, as well as their friends and families,” he said. “They should sit down, relax and pay attention to the service and what it means.”

Rabbi Aaron M. Gaber of Congregation Beth Judah in Ventnor has plans to start a new charity project to last the entire year. Gaber will ask his congregants to pledge to a food drive at the synagogue throughout the year.

“As we renew our own souls, we have to not just focus on ourselves, but also (on) how we can help each other,” he said. “How do we renew ourselves? How do we have a positive impact on the world? We have an obligation to open our homes to the needy and to help and feed them.”

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