According to the Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 1:1) the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul is the Jewish New Year for Animals, just as Tu B’Shevat is the New Year for Trees. In Temple times it was the date from which that a Jew was obliged to give the value of a tenth of their flock to the Temple authorities. Two North West London synagogues have now re-interpreted the tradition.
Alyth and New North London Synagogues have shared the Sternberg Centre site for their Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services for over twenty-five years so this year, one month before the first of Tishri, members of the two synagogues got together to get to know each other through walking with their dogs.
They met with their dogs on Hampstead Heath on the first day of Elul, Sunday 12 August and enjoyed studying together about the Jewish obligation to treat animals with kindness, texts from the Talmud about the havoc that a dog can cause and blessings to share with their animals. Following a brief session of mediation with their dogs, over twenty dogs and owners and other members walked on the Heath for the morning, talking together and letting their dogs enjoy each other’s company.
Rabbi Mark Goldsmith said: “Walking our dogs together was a great way of members of the two communities getting to know each other. We were able to enter the period coming up to the High Holy Days in friendship. For many people their pets help bind their family together and they provide welcome companionship when the family has left home. The Alyth- New North London dog walk attracted people from 6 to 86 years of age and dogs from little terriers to giant poodles. Whether you brought a dog or not, this was such a nice way of entering Elul, I am sure we will do this again!”