'Tashlique' Celebrates the New Year with a Twist on Tradition

by David Katznelson, JCF Director of Outreach and Strategy

Tashlique (a play off of Tashlikh) is a long-standing Jewish practice usually performed on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and is one of my favorite rituals.  It brings to life all the temple discussions and meditations and pairs them with one of the greatest bodies of water in the world, the Pacific Ocean. For those unfamiliar with Tashlique, it is a time when Jews from all over the world go to a large and natural body of flowing water to symbolically, through a piece of bread,  “cast off” the past year’s previous sins and sorrows.  Whatever you choose to leave behind incorporates into the fibers of the bread, and the ocean envelops it and whisks it away.

Our version of the ritual started with two friends of mine performing the annual ceremony, and eventually others joined. For the last five years, JCF along with the JCCSF and Reboot, have participated, adding a special twist. While holding true to the basic part of the ritual -- the bread-water aspect -- today there are new additions that are attracting hundreds of non-traditional Tashlique participants to the beach. This year, 200 attendees gathered around a fire pit by the ocean. People carrying shofars were asked to stand at the front of the group, and mostly children approached, proudly showcasing their instruments. Tekiah Gadolah was called out, and all began blowing the long drone of the shofar in unison.

Before their breaths subsided, two bagpipe players from the Irish Pipers band of San Francisco joined in, followed by six members of the Jazz Mafia brass section. It was magical to see this eclectic group of various professional musicians, children, families and adults all gathered to welcome the New Year through the joyful noise that flooded the beach and basked in the partly clouded sun. After a few minutes of this symphony, the pipers turned and began a procession to the sea, followed by the participants, with bread in hand. The image was divine. 

It was a beautiful San Francisco day, and the sun’s warm rays shot through the clouds, while the shore became dotted with families and friends all pensively looking towards the horizon as the bagpipers began to play their version of the Shema. Sticks were passed out so participants could write messages in the sand that they wanted the waves to wash away. The Jazz Mafia players began accenting the pipers melodies and for this magnificent moment, this temporary community was together and alive. After all sorrows had been cast into the ocean, it was time to enjoy the sweetness of hope and dreams that come with a new year.  The pipers turned to head back to the fire pit, ushering the crowd to follow.  There, they enjoyed smores and fry bread, celebrating the last component of the beloved ceremony.

Categories: Events, Holidays


September 25, 2012


The Federation