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There was a little bit of heaven on Marco, Saturday evening, from the divine lightness of the homemade challah to the melodious tones of a string quartet.

The day had been dreary with rain, clouds and thunderstorms. There was standing water on many of the streets but that did not deter the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island (JCMI) from assembling in their fellowship hall as they prepared to usher in the High Holy Days with the Selichot, (forgiveness) service.

A dinner and the string concert were to set the tone for the serious business of the High Holy Days ; the 10-day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Selichot is a relatively new observance in the Reform tradition. According to JCMI's. Rabbi Edward Maline, D.D., there is no standard liturgy for the service. Instead each rabbi creates his own, taking some of the prayers and music from the services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The dinner was hosted and catered by Sam and Phyllis Borr in honor of their sixty-first wedding anniversary. The couple served up generous portions of brisket and gravy, fried chicken, bowtie pasta and cabbage, bowties and kashi, glazed carrots, coleslaw and cucumber salad. Each table had its own loaf of sweet challah bread.

After dinner there were abundant desserts, everything from homemade candy and cookies to anniversary cake. Phyllis had baked for two weeks preparing for the event. Many in the congregation were excited to assemble together once again and were looking forward to the High Holy Days, as well as, the return of their northern friends.

It's nice to see a new face each Friday night as our friends come back said Joan Thompson, wife of JCMI's president, Bert Thompson.

After the meal members proceeded to the sanctuary were a string quartet composed of members of the Naples Philharmonic played selections that were chosen to portray meditative, somber feelings yet give enough variety to keep everyone interested and appeal to different tastes. This is the third time the quartet's first violin David Mastrangelo, viola Glenn Loontjens, cello Adam Satinsky and second violin Erik Berg have played at JCMI's Selichot service. They began with three slow movements from longer Mozart works ; the flute quartet, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik & and a C minor quartet. They next played selections from the Romantic era: Meditation from Thais by Massenet; & Vocalise of Rachmaninoff,the poignant Pavanne for a Dead Princess by Ravel and the argo from Dvorak&'s New World Symphony.

The sanctuary's Ark curtain, Torah reading desk, candle table and the rabbi's lectern were dressed in white for the High Holy Days. The rabbi wore a white tallit (prayer shawl) and the cantorial soloists also wore white. Jane Galler, Cantorial Soloist of the Naples Jewish Center, on the classical guitar, joined Cantorial Soloist Hari Jacobsen and synagogue keyboardist Dr. Ronald Doiron. The theme of the service, conducted in both Hebrew and English, was turning away from sin (teshuvah). Maline reverently lit the candles of the Lights of the Days of Awe while Jacobsen sang Adoni, Adoni which quickened the heart and brought a tear to the eye.

Maline reminded everyone that the month of Elul (September) is a month of preparation and a time of attunement. In the Kabbalah tradition (the Jewish mystical tradition) Selichot is celebrated at midnight. Midnight a moment between yesterday and tomorrow. It's neither Saturday nor Sunday. We have the opportunity to make change; to go from the past to the future to except new possibilities for tomorrow. A most propitious time to change, said Maline.

To further prepare for the High Holy Days three couples ascended the Bemah (pulpit) to dress the Torah scrolls in the white and gold of the High Holy Days. The scrolls were removed from the Ark and the silver Sefer Torah crowns, Torah breastplates, and yads (pointers) were carefully removed as were the mantles of blue and gold and red and gold cloth and lovingly replaced with the High Holy Day mantles.

At the end of the service Max Stein sounded the shofar, or ram's horn. Its primitive and simple sound reminded everyone of the need for soul-searching and repentance.

If you go:

JCMI's High Holy Days schedule

- 8 p.m., Sept. 18, Rosh Hashanah Eve

- 10 a.m., Sept. 19, Rosh Hashanah, Jewish Year 5770

- 10 a.m., Sept. 20, Tashlich

- 6 p.m., Sept. 27, Yom Kippur Eve (Kol Nidre); dinner at Konrad's Restaurant; 8 p.m., service at JCMI.

- 10 a.m., Sept. 28, Yom Kippur morning service; 3:30 p.m., afternoon service, includes Yizkor/Neilah; 6 p.m.

- Break the Fast dinner (advance reservations required).

For more information on the High Holy Day tickets/dinners, call the JCMI office at 642-0800.

sept 15