GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA
By Megan Burnham
Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay residents of the Jewish faith welcomed Navy Chaplain Rabbi Seth Phillips, Sept. 26, 2008, as he helped Gitmo chaplains provide Jewish services to celebrate the Jewish New Year.
"It is the way and how the Navy and the Chaplain Corps work that if you don't have a chaplain of a particular religion, you try to get one to meet the needs of the folks," said Phillips.
As soon as Phillips landed here, he began preparing for a weekly dinner gathering called a Shabbat. This dinner is the seventh day of the Jewish week, which is their day of rest.
"Friday evening to Saturday evening is a time of community, a time of prayer, a time of fellowship, and a time of rest and relaxation," said Phillips. "The dinner ritual is to remind us of God's graciousness to us as well as opportunities to rest and be restored."
The services of the Jewish New Year are known as Rosh Hashanah, meaning "head of the year," that start at sundown the night before and continue for 24 hours. The first service began the evening of Sept. 29, 2008, with a ceremony of dipping apples in honey to symbolize a sweet new year.
The day of the new year started with a synagogue service at the Fellowship Hall at the Naval Station Chapel, and the final service at Cable Beach here where bread was thrown into the water to symbolize casting away sins into the depths of the sea. A ram's horn, known as "Shofar" in Hebrew, was blown as a spiritual alarm clock.
"Blowing the ram's horn calls us to repentance, calls us to remember who we want to be in the new year," said Phillips.
While Phillips' duty here has been accomplished, rituals of the Jewish New Year continue. Ten days after the day of new year is the Day of Atonement.
"This day is the first and very important opportunity of the new year to get right with God," said Phillips. "But equally, if not more important, this is the time to apologize for the past year and ask for forgiveness from our neighbors, family members, co-workers, shipmates, and battle buddies."
Phillips was able to tour the base and keep up his running regimen as he trains for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C., Oct. 26, 2008.
"My biggest challenge here, as I keep up my training, are the hills and the humidity," said Phillips. "But I've kept to my running schedule despite it all."
When asked what he was most impressed by in his visit to Gitmo, Phillips replied, "It was the sense of shared hardship, the sense of reasoning, the sense of the mission, the sacrifice and the support I felt while sitting in meetings and talking to the Troops here."
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This work, Ringing in the Jewish New Year, by SSG Megan Leuck, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.