It is a fateful coincidence that the print deadline for the October issue of ANTIGRAVITY falls on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in a clash of calendars that is all too familiar for me. As someone who is always struggling to juggle the Jewish and New Orleans holidays, along with multiple publishing schedules, I think wistfully of all my ancestors who only had to manage one timetable.
According to the Jewish lunar calendar, Rosh Hashanah may be the first day of the new year, but it also marks the beginning of a 10-day period of reflection designed to cleanse the soul of the previous year’s spiritual dirt. Throughout the holiday, people who have done one another wrong are required not only to sincerely ask for forgiveness, but to also commit to talking it through and taking on the reparative work asked for by the injured party. From Tashlich, the symbolic casting of sin and regret into the nearest body of water, to the fasting and vigorous repenting on Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days are a solemn, even fearful affair. For even after all of this atonement, forgiveness—mortal or divine—is never guaranteed.
Growing up Jewish among Gentiles, it always rather confused and disturbed me that we alone took so many days out of the Gregorian calendar to wail and beat our breasts. And it struck me as unfair that while I was spending those long days at the synagogue, all the other kids in my class were just hanging around the playground like it was any other day. But now that I’m older, I can see that avoiding moments of individual and societal reckoning is not without consequence, and I’m proud to come from a culture that takes the time to do it.
I find myself wondering what the High Holy Days were like for my grandparents while growing up in their respective tight-knit, orthodox Jewish, Yiddish-speaking villages, the kind that were so widespread throughout Europe before the war. What a difference it must have made to share the experience of collective self-examination with everyone you knew. How freeing it must have been to resume everyday life afterwards, clear of the regrets and resentments that had accumulated within the community over the year.
As I reflect on Jewish new years past and present (welcome, year 5783!) while finishing the October issue of ANTIGRAVITY, it occurs to me that perhaps these calendars aren’t really so at odds. When your entire agenda consists of telling the truth consistently and well, publishing a monthly alternative magazine is a process that also inspires regularly scheduled moments of individual and collective reckoning. During the last few days before going to print, all the editors reflect on what we and our contributors have created, attempt to correct the errors and cleanse the dirt that’s found its way in, and finally submit ourselves to whatever judgment comes, knowing that we’ve done the best we can.
And so, with another issue wrapping up right on the cusp of the long-awaited New Orleans fall, consider this an invitation to look towards a new beginning together. Breathe in the crisp autumn air, throw your old mistakes and sorrows into the Mississippi, apologize for the rude comments you let slip while sweating bullets in shotgun houses besieged by the punishing summer sun, and bare the truest version of yourself to whatever divinity you give credence to.
L’Shana tovah, dear readers. May your new year be as sweet as a slice of honey-slathered challah from Stein’s.
October 2022 cover by Jeffrey Roche