Jewish community continues most important traditions despite Hurricane Michael's lasting impact

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - From the outside, it might not look like there's much going on in one Panama City building off Frankford Avenue. But on the inside, there's a community coping with Hurricane Michael.

Rabbi Marla Spanjer reads a passage from the Torah. (WJHG/WECP)

"We lost many of the trees around the building. We had some leaking," said Daniel Sternlicht, the Religious School Director and Cantorial Soloist for Temple B'Nai Israel.

Now, nearly a year after the storm, much of the damage is fixed, and a strong Jewish community is ready to celebrate the High Holidays. That includes the Jewish New Year, also known as Rosh Hashanah.

"It's very joyous. We have apples, cut up apples dipped in honey to symbolize that we wish everyone a sweet year," said Rabbi Marla Spanjer, the temples High Holiday Rabbi.

Blowing the shofar, a ram's horn, is a holiday tradition.

"It's a wake-up call to remind us of what really matters and even to remind us that we are mortal and we need to repent now," said Rabbi Spanjer.

Then Rosh Hashanah starts the 10 days of awe where Jewish people take a spiritual inventory of the past year, then they celebrate Yom Kippur.

"From Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur a great emphasis is on reconciling relationships, rerouting ourselves, so to speak," said Rabbi Spanjer.

The focus of Yom Kippur is to ask for forgiveness for any wrongdoing from the previous year.

"To our friends, to people in the community, and particularly to God almighty," said Sternlicht.

"There is a joy in it because we believe God is forgiving and we believe we will be forgiven, but we're humble. We know we need to be forgiven," said Rabbi Spanjer.

Making the clean slate this new year a little bit sweeter.

This Bay County Jewish community is praying this year the area rebuilds strong, and the community remains even stronger.

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