This is a page from a siddur which was printed in Copenhagen during the 1700s. The words have been artistically rendered, and the page features the ancient liturgical poem or piyut known as “Avinu Malkeinu” (Our Father, Our King). The repeated words of the prayer – “Avinu” and “Malkeinu” – appear with their initials א, מ and the name of God is printed beneath them, presumably as a commentary to these words. Alongside the familiar text of this piyut are some additions and changes including a short request for financial assistance:
May the Lord our God and the God of our forefathers give me and my family and all that are dependent upon me honourable sustenance today and every day, by virtue of your great name and the help of the angel responsible for livelihoods.
“Avinu Malkeinu” is said during the prayers of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the Ten Days of Repentance between these two festivals, and fast days. The prayer consists of 44 sentences, each expressing a request or plea from God. Among the requests are hopes for a good New Year, a favourable sentence from the heavenly court, a prosperous livelihood, good health, and others.
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Rosh Hashanah – Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the Jewish New Year which takes place on the first two days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. It is celebrated by blowing the shofar, lighting candles, eating festive meals, and attending services at the synagogue. Rosh Hashanah is the first of the High Holy days which end 10 days later with Yom Kippur. The ten-day period is called the Ten Days of Repentance, because it is believed that during this period a person’s deeds are judged and the future year is decided. It is a both a festive holiday and a solemn time of introspection which includes prayer, asking forgiveness from others, and giving tzedakah (charity). The prayers on Rosh Hashanah include asking God for a peaceful, prosperous, and healthy year. Rosh Hashanah also celebrates the creation of the world. People greet each other on Rosh Hashanah by saying: “Shana Tova (Happy New Year).” Food customs for Rosh Hashanah vary among the different communities but often include round challahs (instead of the customary long loaf), apples and honey, and pomegranates. Many people send Shana Tova cards to their friends and family.
Avinu Malkeinu – The piyut (liturgical poem) “Avinu Malkeinu” (Our father, Our King) is said during the prayers of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the Ten Days of Repentance between these two festivals, and fast days. The prayer consists of 44 sentences, each expressing a request or plea from God. Among the requests are hopes for a good New Year, a favourable sentence from the heavenly court, a prosperous livelihood, good health, and others. The source of this ancient piyut is the Babylonian Talmud (Ta’anit 25b) as a prayer written by Rabbi Akiva at a time of drought. The piyut was later expanded, and it has been accepted by Jewish communities all over, each offering a slight change in order or words.
The Jewish Community of Denmark – Until the seventeenth century, both Jews and Catholics were prohibited from entering Denmark. The first evidence of a Jewish community in Denmark is from the beginning of the seventeenth century when King Christian IV allowed a Jewish merchant to settle in the country. Initially, Sephardi Jews were given permission to live in Denmark and to hold religious services and have a separate cemetery, but Ashkenazi Jews were still denied entry. Eventually more Jews, including Ashkenazis, were allowed to settle in both Copenhagen and Fredericia, due to the king’s desire to promote trade. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the Enlightenment reached Denmark and, with it, Jewish emancipation. Jews were allowed to join guilds, study in universities, buy property, and establish schools, but this same period also saw anti-Jewish riots in Copenhagen. In the early nineteenth century, the Danish Jewish community prospered; the Great Synagogue of Copenhagen was built, and Jews were prominent in art and literature. In the early twentieth century, following pogroms in Russia, Jewish immigrants arrived in Denmark and established a Yiddish theatre and several Yiddish newspapers. With the Nazi occupation of Denmark during World War II, King Christian X promised that he too would wear a yellow star if this was forced on the Danish Jews. He later financed the safe transport of 7,550 Danish Jews to the safety of unoccupied Sweden. Ultimately, only 500 Jews were deported from Denmark, and the Danish authorities continued to support the deportees, most of whom returned to their homes after the war. After World War II, many Danish Jews immigrated to Sweden, Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Today, approximately 6,400 Jews live in Denmark, mostly in Copenhagen. The community has old age homes, a Jewish school, a Jewish magazine, and a Jewish museum. Kosher food can be found in Denmark but Jewish ritual slaughter, shechita, is not permitted.