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Reversing an old tradition, eco-activist Jews cleanse waters of humanity’s sins

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NEW YORK — As they ring in the new lunar year of 5782, religious Jews around the world will figuratively cast their sins into the water this week in a tradition known as taschilch. At the same time, over 100 groups of Jewish volunteers across the globe have decided to reverse the ritual and clean up the oceans instead.

“When we take our sins and throw them into the sea, we are actually sinning more because we are making our environment less pure,” 25-year-old Dominique Chor told The Times of Israel via telephone from her home in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Chor and a group of Jewish students will be among the many Reverse Tashlich first-timers around the world to participate on September 12; in another first, groups from Israel will also participate in Reverse Tashlich this year.

The age-old tradition of tashlich typically takes place over Rosh Hashanah and the week leading up to Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, and consists of throwing pebbles or pieces of bread into a body of water to symbolically jettison the sins of the previous year. Reverse Tashlich, now in its fourth year, sees Jews convene to collect trash strewn along rivers, lakes, oceans, and other bodies of water, large and small.

The event — which doesn’t preclude participation in the traditional tashlich ritual — is organized by Tikkun HaYam, or Repairing the Sea, a group that engages in marine restoration from a Jewish perspective. According to the Reverse Tashlich website, approximately 6 million tons of trash enter the water annually as a result of human negligence.

Shayna Cohen joined Tikkun HaYam in 2018. Born in Hawaii, 26-year-old Cohen has always considered the ocean to be her “happy place,” and she is now a certified scuba diving instructor living in Orlando, Florida.

“I was learning about all of the issues that so many people were not talking about and I felt a call to protect the ocean,” she said.

After she joined the organization, Cohen was tasked with spreading the word about Reverse Tashlich to Jewish communities around the world. This year, 134 teams in 15 countries will........

© The Times of Israel

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