SALEM – The Lappin Foundation, which holds two Guinness World Records for largest shofar ensemble, is giving away free shofars to individuals and Jewish and interfaith families in preparation for the Jewish High Holidays. Along with the free shofar, the foundation is providing a PowerPoint to learn about the shofar and how to sound it. The program is called “The Shofar Calls.”
The idea is for people to sound the shofar daily during the Hebrew month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashanah. This traditional practice prepares people spiritually for the High Holidays by listening to the call of the shofar.
Individuals can obtain a shofar by signing up on the Lappin Foundation’s website under the “Upcoming Programs” tab which holds the link for “The Shofar Calls.”
Debbie Coltin, the executive director of the Lappin Foundation, expressed the importance of maintaining Jewish traditions despite not being able to hold large gatherings. “We thought this would be a wonderful opportunity for people to bring Judaism home,” she said.
Coltin said individuals and Jewish and interfaith families in the 30 North Shore cities and towns in the foundation’s service area are eligible to receive one free shofar. Families with children will also receive small plastic shofars.
Coltin said she hopes that those who learn how to sound the shofar will try to go to places where Jewish people cannot hear the shofar, such as some nursing homes or the homes of elderly neighbors.
“This is really an intergenerational, community, Jewish engagement experience,” said Coltin.
Diane Elefson of West Peabody, a retired administrator for the nonprofit Action Inc., took part in the original Great Shofar Blowout in 2006. She is happy that younger people will learn more about the importance of the shofar. “People have gotten away from what it meant in biblical times,” Elefson said.
“I think it’s important to remember that this is part of our history and part of our culture,” she said.
Pamela Milman Stein of Peabody, an education law attorney, said the shofar program is a great opportunity for her children, who are in middle school, to get more involved with their faith. The program is a natural fit for Milman Stein and her family: She blows the shofar for her shul, Congregation Sons of Israel in Peabody.
While the Lappin Foundation is based on the North Shore, the shofar program has made its way down to Orlando, Florida, courtesy of Ed Bromberg, who used to live in Peabody. Bromberg was a shofar blower at his congregation in Peabody, and when he moved to Orlando in 2004 he had planned – at some point – to continue the shofar program.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, his idea came to fruition. “There were a few things that were clear,” Bromberg said in regard to the Jewish high holidays. “The extreme would be that we won’t be able to have any services together, and there was no way it would ever be similar to prior years.”
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning that large in-person gatherings where social distancing is not possible present the “highest risk” during the pandemic, Bromberg wanted to make sure that Jewish people in his community could really hear the sound of the shofar, and not over Zoom. Through his ties with the North Shore community, Bromberg received an email about the Lappin Foundation’s shofar program and contacted Coltin. She offered about 200 shofars, establishing the program in Orlando, which is funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando. The program has been well received by the community.
Like the Lappin Foundation, The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando will be giving out free shofars to participants in their community, along with educational resources on the history of the shofar and lessons on how to blow it.
Coltin expressed her gratitude for the program and its reception. “I think we’ve all been through a lot these past few months and if you listen to the sounds of the shofar, the message of the shofar, which is all about paying attention and fixing what’s broken, I think it’s a wonderful experience for our community to have,” she said.