Manny Trauring of Modesto remembers what it was like to be celebrating Rosh Hashanah as a boy in Germany in the late 1930s.
"We always looked forward to the holidays," he said. "I looked forward to good meals. In Rosh Hashanah, we use honey and apples for sweetness in the new year."
There are also not-so-sweet memories.
"We walked to synagogues," he said. "There were snotty German kids. They threw things at us and called us 'dirty Jews.' There were posters with pictures of Jews with the hooked nose.
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"We (my family) were the lucky ones. We didn't suffer too much. There were good Germans, too. We exchanged gifts. We left in 1939 because my father was an American citizen. I was 9."
The family left Wuppertal-Elberfeld, Germany, and settled in New York. In the mid-1980s, Trauring, now 75, moved to Modesto, where he married his second wife, Liz, whose husband had died.
"My wife is a very good woman," Truaring said. "She's very active in the Special Olympics and is treasurer in the synagogue. Things worked out very well."
He and his wife will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, which begins at sundown Monday, at Congregation Beth Shalom. It continues through Tuesday.
"It's the only (Jewish) holiday celebrated over two days," Trauring said. We review last year's mistakes and want to make improvements in the coming year. We list any possible sin and read that three times a day.
"Yom Kippur is the final day, a day of atonement. It's difficult to sit in the synagogue all day. As a child, we didn't have much money, so we bought two seats (for my parents) and I squeezed in wherever I could. This (Beth Shalom) is a good synagogue. There are plenty of seats. And if you get tired, you can go home and come back later. Nobody minds."
He said his most memorable Holy Days occurred in Germany.
"I looked forward to leaving Germany and coming here, getting away from all the evil things," he said.
Most of his family survived the war.
"I had a cousin in Romania," Trauring said. "He took a leak against a wall and the Nazis shot him dead in the head. I had a lot of family in Belgium. They were in the diamond industry. They all survived and came here. I had a cousin, a doctor. A Frenchwoman hid him, and he lived."
In 1988, Trauring said he returned to Germany as a guest of the government, which had invited people to return to their hometowns.
"On Yom Kippur, we were in a synagogue in the city," he said. "A woman took me in the back and showed me a curtain that covered the ark. The curtain was donated by my uncle. I was very surprised to see it."
Yom Kippur services this year begin at sundown Oct. 8 and conclude with another blow on the shofar on Oct. 9.
For service times and information, contact Congregation Beth Shalom, 1705 Sherwood Ave., Modesto; 571-6070.
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at 578-2012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.