Catching a Carp on Rosh Hashanah

Thursday, September 9, 2010 - 6:44 pm

Catching a Carp on Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah honey cake
It’s now officially 5771. Last night’s sunset marked the beginning of Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish New Year. The holiday typically falls in September (163 days after the first day of Passover). For me it always signals a shift from the light, fruity days of summer to a brisker and and more sober season.
Rosh Hashanah apples + honey
It’s common for Jews to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with apples and honey and other sweet foods to usher in a sweet new year. I grew up eating gefilte fish, which my mother prepares mostly from scratch with carp and pike from the local fishmonger.
Gefilte fish evokes a childhood memory of reading Barbara Cohen’s classic, The Carp in the Bathtub. It’s the story of a girl and her brother in Flatbush, Brooklyn who become attached to a live carp their mother intends to use for gefilte fish. The children try to save the carp from its fate. I won’t give away the ending but let’s just say it’s bittersweet.
The Carp in the BathtubApparently I’m not the only one with a fond memory of gefilte fish and Cohen’s book. Last night, a friend posted on Facebook that she’d rediscovered A Carp in the Bathtub; she and her son planned to catch a carp and keep it for a few days until the creature fulfilled its gefilte fish destiny with some help from grandma. But things did not go according to plan. The carp evaded capture and stole off with the family fishing rod. They ate salad at Rosh Hashanah dinner instead of gelatinous fish balls. There was one bright spot: everyone got to use the bathtub this week.
For those of you who observe Rosh Hashanah, how are you continuing or adapting family traditions during these Days of Awe? What Rosh Hashanah memories do you cherish and carry forward into this new year?

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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