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Earliest Jewish New Year Since 1880s Sandwiches Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah

By Alisa Hauser | September 4, 2013 5:39pm
 A woman blows a shofar, or ram's horn, to announce the holidays. The Jewish New Year 5774 begins sundown Wednesday.
A woman blows a shofar, or ram's horn, to announce the holidays. The Jewish New Year 5774 begins sundown Wednesday.
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CHICAGO — Wednesday marks the earliest Rosh Hashanah since the 1880s.

Arriving on a four-day work week cut short by the Labor Day holiday, the year 5774 has taken some Jews by surprise, with Rosh Hashanah beginning at sundown Wednesday and running through Friday.

The next time Rosh Hashanah will take place this early on the calendar is 2089.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins at sundown Sept. 13, while Simchat Torah, the third and final holiday in a three-part series referred to as the High Holy Days or "Days of Awe" is scheduled for Sept. 26.

Around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, just a few hours before the Bucktown-Wicker Park Chabad Jewish Center's communal holiday dinner and services, Rabbi Yosef Moscowitz said online reservations were coming in "every two minutes."

Moscowitz, 33, said last-minute reservations are common for the holy days, and while he's unsure if the rush is due to the holidays falling earlier than usual Common Era calendar, he's sure that the date has remained the same in the Jewish calendar.

"There's been a lot of talk about the fact it's early, but in the Jewish calendar it's always on the same day and the lesson is it's never too early to reconnect. People wait until they have children or families to come to a synagogue," Moscowitz said.  

While most synagogues require the purchasing of "tickets" in order to gain admittance into service over the holidays or annual membership dues, a growing movement called Chabad, led by young modern Orthodox rabbis such as Moscowitz, offer services with no membership or admission fees.

The Chabad-Lubavitch operates several chapters in Chicago, with the Wicker Park center being among the largest, Moscowitz said.

"Our core membership is from the neighborhood, but people come from around the city. Our whole crowd is non-judgmental and very diverse, we welcome people from every denomination of Judaism and who are unaffiliated," he said.

Moscowitz said his center at 1630 N. Milwaukee Ave. is expecting 150 people for High Holiday services, but the number is "steadily climbing and could be even bigger" with people just showing up at the door.

The rabbi said the reason the holiday dates vary involve the fact that every few years there is a leap year. In the Jewish calendar that means an extra month, whereas in the Common Era calendar it means an extra day. 

The High Holidays aren't the only celebrations and days of observance that will take some Jews by surprise.

On Nov. 28, Hanukkah will be on Thanksgiving, "which never happens," according to Moscowitz.