Faith brings family together

October 05, 2005|By: Elia Powers

This is the time of year when Mandy Wynn tends to feel homesick.

She's settled into her life in Brooklyn, N.Y., but something about

the Jewish High Holy Days gets her thinking about family traditions.

And hers has plenty of them.

The Sonenshines, one of the first families to join Newport Beach's

Temple Bat Yahm, typically arrive early to synagogue for Rosh Hashana

and Yom Kippur to secure a seat near the front. Three generations


chant together, led by grandpa Ygal Sonenshine.

Then the family packs into cars and heads for Laguna Beach to

continue its uniquely Southern Californian Jewish New Year's


Wynn makes it to Orange County at least once during the High Holy

Days, which began Monday night and continue through Oct. 13. This

year, she's arriving for Yom Kippur.

That's when the "Battle of the Shofar" will commence.

In perhaps the wackiest of family traditions, Wynn and her father,

Ygal, challenge each other to a contest in which each person blows

the traditional instrument, a ram's horn, for as long as possible.

It usually ends in a draw, they say.

And for Wynn, the trips always end with a hug and a salutation --

L'Shanah Tovah, or Happy New Year.

"I cherish going home," Wynn said. "I've been dying to find a

temple here that uses the same melodies and has the same traditions

as the one where I grew up. It makes it hard to join anywhere else,

because nothing can compare."

Traditions and togetherness are central to the High Holy Days, the

holiest time on the Jewish calendar. Families across Newport-Mesa

celebrated the start to the year 5766 in their own ways Tuesday.

Smiles graced the faces of the Sonenshine clan as they trickled

out of Temple Bat Yahm after the morning service. Congregants stopped

to thank Ygal Sonenshine for sounding the shofar -- something he's

done at the temple for more than 20 years.

The Israeli-born Sonenshine has been involved in the reform

congregation since its founding year, 1973. His family's name adorns

the temple's sanctuary. It's his way of paying homage to relatives

lost in the Holocaust.

Sonenshine's parents saw the words printed above the door. Now his

children and their children read the family name every time they go

to synagogue.

"They are an institution here," said Temple Bat Yahm Executive

Director Bill Shane. "They've been in leadership positions for close

to 30 years. What stands out is that they always give of themselves."

Sonenshine's wife, Sheila, was the congregation's first

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