Jewish High Holidays; Rosh Hashanah…Antarctica Style!

13 Oct
The stained glass window in the Chapel of the Snows overlooking a beautiful view of Antarctica.

The stained glass window in the Chapel of the Snows overlooking a beautiful view of Antarctica.

I figured it would be pretty rare to find another Jewish person down here to share the high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  So in preparation, I brought the wonderful machzor (prayer book) for the high holidays, thanks to Pop-Pop, and figured I would find a nice quiet place, maybe the chapel (that’s not so non-denominational) and have my own services.  I was so wrong.  I have found that there will be a nice, but small, Jewish community down here. 

I had befriended Linda in Christchurch, my current roomate, galley coworker, and fellow Member of the Tribe.  We met other Jewish folk from just talking to people and telling them our plans for the day.  In total, we found about half dozen other Jewish friends to share the holidays and heard about others, but have yet to figure out who they are.

Since Rosh Hashanah was during the work week and some couldn’t get off of work, we were only able to have a small gathering, three for morning services and Tashlich;  Linda, the doctor (we have nicknamed him the Rabbi since he brought a printed version of the morning services from the Union for Reform Judiasm (URJ)) and myself. 

We met at Hut 10, the small living quarters for the distinguished visitors when they come on base. around 9am.  I was not dressed as I normally would for this day (skirt, hose, blouse/sweater, nice jewelry, etc.) since the weather conditions suggested that I wear long pants and certainly not heals.  I wore jeans, a sweatshirt, and my hiking boots.  We started off the service like most others do with a little socializing and getting to know each other.  The Rabbi is a doctor from Virginia, here for the summer, as Linda and I are.  He’s taking a sabbatical from his OB/GYN practice.  It’s his first year down here as well and feels the same way about being on The Ice as I do; that it’s an amazing opportunity and we should take advantage of all that is available!  Linda, from Miami, comes from Joy Wallace Catering Production and Design (managing high class, high volume, catering work).  We are close in age and both went to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

We had a beautiful morning service utilizing the printed version from the URJ website as well as referring to my machzor every now and then for the staples of the Rosh Hashanah service.   We used both english and hebrew and interspersed some intellectual conversation.

Linda had to head to work and the Rabbi and I decided to continue our celebration over lunch.  We had a nice Rosh Hashanah meal (philly cheese steak was served-I didn’t have the bread or cheese so it was sort of like brisket-maybe!) and jello!  What a meal.  The Rabbi and I had some great conversations about life and what brought us here.  We decided that our Antarctic Rosh Hashanah would not be complete with aTashlich service, the service to ‘cast away’ your sins.  We made a plan to meet later for Tashlich and discussed the basics of how that would work.

Linda and I at the Oneg (notice the assortment of hot beverages).

Linda and I at the Oneg (notice the assortment of hot beverages).

Tashlich means ‘you will cast away.’  It refers to a custom dating from atleast the 14th century where people would gather on Rosh Hashanah at bodies of water and toss bread/breadcrumbs  into the water to symbolize our wish to get rid of our sins and be forgiven by God. 

We met in the chapel later that day.  We started off with more socializeing, of course and had a little Oneg (snacks and such) and then looked around the chapel for any signs of Judiasm.  We found one lonely box labeled ‘Supplies-Jewish,’ very military style, the cross with the Jewish star in it and the cloth on the alter with a cross, and Jewish star (see photo above).  
The 'Box'

The 'Box'In the box were very old cans of gefilte fish, chicken soup, and Kedem grape juice. We found a nice wine cup, some machzors for daily services, and other information for other Jewish hoildays. I am sure some of these items may be of use, but not for this holiday. Since we didn't have any running water (other than the porcelin god), we had to get creative. We used small pieces of paper (recycled ofcourse) to symbolize our bread and were going to say the prayers and 'cast' our sins in the Mixed Paper recycle bin at the chapel. We followed along with the proper prayers and each casted ours sins away. The infamous Mixed Paper Recycle Bin to cast away our sins.

Tashlich at the Mixed Paper Recycle Bin

Tashlich at the Mixed Paper Recycle Bin

Linda and the Rabbi casting away their sins.

Linda and the Rabbi casting away their sins.

We concluded our service appropriately and then took a nice group photo to commemorate the occassion. 
Jews on Ice!

Jews on Ice!


3 Responses to “Jewish High Holidays; Rosh Hashanah…Antarctica Style!”

  1. Mike October 14, 2008 at 3:45 pm #

    God is great and alive. Keep enjoying his creation down their.

  2. Jim Fesler October 15, 2008 at 2:42 pm #

    Hey Marci,
    Looks like you have settled in well. I see the exercise ball made the trip. Love all the pictures. I was reading about the hike you went on and you said you did not know which direction you were going. Marci, you were probably heading NORTH.
    All is good in the exercise world. I had an awsome September and October is looking great as well. Keep us all updated. See you soon. jim

  3. Patricia October 17, 2008 at 4:01 am #

    All your entries are good, but this is my favorite so far!! You might inspire my religous side. 🙂

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