Sweet Start to the New Year at Handmaker

When a group of Tucson Hebrew Academy (THA) first-grade students walked into the Handmaker Grand Foyer holding hands with their eighth-grade buddies, the Handmaker residents waiting for them to arrive began grinning from ear to ear. Just seeing the kids was enough to put smiles on their faces. But, as Cantor Janece Cohen strummed the guitar, the students sang several songs about the Jewish New Year, and the smiles grew even wider. Some of the songs were familiar to residents. Rabbi Malcolm Cohen from Kol Ami had visited the week prior to talk about the upcoming holidays, and he had coincidentally taught the residents a few of these songs.

After the THA students were finished singing, Cantor Janece Cohen blew the shofar for residents, and the students walked over and introduced themselves to the residents and wished them a happy new year.  It was a delightful start to the Jewish High Holiday celebrations at Handmaker.

On Erev Rosh Hashanah, 35 Residents and guests enjoyed a beautiful meal prepared by Handmaker’s talented Executive Chef, Claire Ferguson. Each course (from the chicken and rice soup, to the Moroccan chicken or salmon, to the apple upside-down cake) elicited oohs and aahs from everyone at the table. So, when Claire came out to see how everything tasted, she received a round of applause. The meal that she prepared for the second night of Rosh Hashanah was just as delicious and impressive.

And, for the first time in several years, Rosh Hashanah services were all in person in the Great Room, led by Mel Cohen and Dan Asia.  Zoom just does not capture the sound of the shofar, and Dan really did it justice this year. With the beautiful voice of Marlene Burns and Vicki Grieff chanting Torah, Michael Rosenzweig helping with the davening (prayer), and drashes (sermons) given by Charles Bressel, Vicki Grieff and Mel Cohen, there was a real sense of a warmth and community in the Great Room.

Service-goers also had the opportunity to share a kiddush meal together after the services, catch up with each other, and savor the taste of pickled herring. Many service attendees who don’t live at Handmaker had not seen each other or the residents in person in far too long, and there was much to catch up on.

The visits from THA and Malcolm Cohen, meaningful services, delicious meals, and just being together to celebrate, all added up to a sweet start to this new year for the Handmaker community.

Shana Tova Umeteka (Happy and Sweet New Year)! G’mar Hatimah Tova (May You Have a Good Final Sealing in the Book of Life)!