Shofar time is here again

Shofar time is here again

Tips of the trade

At Congregation B’nai Israel in Emerson, it is never too early to start learning the art of sounding a shofar. Pictured in the top row are: Jason Weinberg (with shofar), Bruce Weinberg (with shofar), Brian Reiff, Evan Reiff (with shofar), and Craig Weisz (instructor). Bottom row: Hannah Mathilda Weisz (with shofar) and Evan Shein. Courtesy Naomi Weinberg

In classes promising to teach participants to “toot your own horn,” Craig Weisz , a member of Cong. B’nai Israel in Emerson and the husband of the synagogue’s religious leader, Rabbi Debra Orenstein, hopes to demonstrate that sounding a shofar “is not all that difficult.”

“My 5-year-old daughter can do it,” he said, as can his 7-year-old son.

While there are different levels of preparation – including the spiritual aspect, “understanding the meaning of the shofar and what it’s about” – Weisz said he will be focusing on “simple technical tips.”

“It’s not a musical instrument,” he said, acknowledging that professional musicians might nevertheless have some advantages in playing the ram’s horn. “You make a raspberry sound with your lips and put the shofar near your mouth.”

Weisz said playing the shofar is almost “counterintuitive.”

“You don’t blow into it,” said the Teaneck resident. “I’ll try to get [attendees] to understand what to do with their mouths. It’s not about pressing it hard; it’s about being relaxed.”

Weisz said he has sounded a shofar for many years, but became more knowledgeable about it several years ago when he attended a workshop in Los Angeles. He noted that the mitzvah is not to sound a shofar but rather to hear it.

“When I am blowing it, I am not performing a mitzvah but rather helping [the congregation] to do a mitzvah,” he said. “I’m particularly aware of the purpose. It helps you to focus on the preparation.”

“It’s not about the size of the shofar,” he added. “When you understand that without feeling daunted, with a little guidance you can get a good sound. The goal is not to get a full pure tone but to get something. That’s all that’s required.”

Weisz’s workshops will take place at the synagogue on Sept. 11 and 25 at 9:30 a.m., and Sept. 23 at 6:30 p.m. For additional information, call (201) 265-2272 or e-mail

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