Folkshul marks Rosh Hashanah in Pastorius Park ceremony

by Barbara Sherf
Posted 9/23/20

To mark Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, about 30 members of Folkshul held a socially distanced Tashlich ceremony on Friday afternoon at Pastorius Park.

The first-time event for the secular …

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Folkshul marks Rosh Hashanah in Pastorius Park ceremony


To mark Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, about 30 members of Folkshul held a socially distanced Tashlich ceremony on Friday afternoon at Pastorius Park.

The first-time event for the secular Jewish community focused on social justice through words, guitar music by Music Director Art Miron, and action in the form of raking leaves in the park after the ceremony. 

Tashlich is a ceremony of casting away sins from the past year by throwing breadcrumbs in the water. 

“Instead of breadcrumbs we used duck food to feed the wildlife that is already here,” said Rupp, as bags of duck food were distributed and the contents thrown in the water.  “This service is all about casting away behaviors that have not served us well, while focusing on recreating ourselves with thoughtful intentions.”

Her husband, David, was called upon to blow the shofar. A shofar is an ancient musical horn typically made of a ram's horn, used for Jewish religious purposes.

“The purpose of hearing the shofar is to experience a collective consciousness while we cast away what we wish to and hold onto those things close that are serving us well,” Rupp told the audience of about 30 members. 

Chestnut Hill resident Susan Dubroff was among them. 

“It’s all about starting the cycle of life over again by reviewing the past year and celebrating a new year.  For us it’s really the birthday of the world and tasting delectable things to celebrate the sweetness of life and family and friends,” said Dubroff.

The selection of the site was not by accident.

“Mr. Pastorius was an anti-slaver and in light of the Black Lives Matter movement we wanted to honor him and recognize the violence against Jews parallels the violence in Tulsa and how we have allowed violence to become a way of life,” Rupp said.

According to Wikipedia, Francis Pastorius was a cosigner of the 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, the first petition against slavery made in the English colonies.  A German immigrant, Pastorius took passage to Philadelphia and negotiated the purchase of 15,000 acres from William Penn, laying out the settlement of Germantown, where he himself would live until his death. As one of Germantown's leading citizens, Pastorius served in many public offices. He was Germantown's first mayor a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1687 and 1691.

Rupp talked about the political reasons for the gathering.

“We need to consider our power and looking back and start with our ancestors and where we come from,” said Rupp.  “Today is considered the birth of the world and yet we are presented with Covid, injustice, racism and a lack of opportunity and loss.  The one thing we can do is vote.  We can vote with our feet, with our hearts and on Election Day we must vote.  In this country we have missed the mark and we have a chance to make it right.”

Jenia Jolley, along with her husband and their two children were on hand for the ceremony. 

“I’m a new member so this looking back and looking forward has a new meaning for us.  We all feel very welcomed and grateful to be part of this community and celebrating in a socially distanced way,” said Jolley. 

Board Secretary Richard Frankel was glad to see some sort of observance during this pandemic. 

“For me, 2020 has been crazy.  So to gather here for a ceremony to look back on the old year and forward to a new year with a group of people socially distanced like this is hard to find,” said Frankel.

Mindy Blatt, who has been with the Folkshul for 18 years and served as it’s Director prior to Rupp, was touched by the whole ceremony.

“It was really exciting.  This is the first time we’ve done this kind of event and there was a nice turnout on a beautiful day.  People distanced and yet came together for community,” said Blatt. 

After the ceremony, members stayed and raked leaves from a portion of the park as their way of giving back. 

While the organization is based at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, the fall programs will be held socially distanced at Fort Washington State Park. 

On Sunday, November 8 at 2 p.m. at Fort Washington State Park 

Folkshul is hosting a "Kristallnacht and Massacre on Main Street a Tulsa Memorial Gathering" for grades six and older for a community conversation “to focus on the hatred that leads to murder.”

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Correspondent Barbara Sherf can be reached at


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