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Prayers at the water: Oklahoma City Jewish community symbolically casts off sins in traditional ceremony

Members of the Temple B'nai Israel and Emanuel Synagogue congregations recently gathered at Lake Hefner for a Tashlich service. The service is traditionally held at a body of water during the Jewish High Holy Days.
by Carla Hinton Modified: September 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm •  Published: September 21, 2013

Breadcrumbs in hand, Lou and Lily Barlow recently gathered at the shore of Lake Hefner with more on their agenda than feeding ducks.

The father and daughter, along with other members of Emanuel Synagogue and Temple B'nai Israel, participated in an ancient Jewish ritual known as Tashlich.

The Tashlich service at Lake Hefner brought Oklahoma City's two Jewish faith congregations together for an afternoon of tradition, youth games and a cookout.

Tashlich means “casting off” in Hebrew. As part of the Tashlich ceremony, individuals symbolically toss their sins into a pool of water, traditionally an open body of water like a pond, river or lake. In New York City, many Jews perform the ritual from the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

“You think of a few things you don't want to do anymore, and you can get rid of it,” said Lou Barlow, a member of Emanuel Synagogue. “You can symbolically get rid of it.”

The ritual traditionally is held the afternoon of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, or sometime during the Jewish High Holy Days. The High Holy Days are the days between Rosh Hashana, which was Sept. 4, and Yom Kippur, the most holy day of the Jewish calendar, on Sept. 13.

At the Sept. 11 Tashlich ceremony in Oklahoma City, youths from the two Jewish congregations, along with their parents and other adults, tossed breadcrumbs in the lake, symbolically throwing away their sins and mistakes from the previous year.

Helene Harpman, a longtime member of Emanuel Synagogue, held a bag full of breadcrumbs and joked as people stood on the lakeshore.

“It's ‘bring your own breadcrumbs' — ‘bring your own sins' — today,” she said.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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