Rosh Hashanah: 5775 and Counting

Written by Len Abram

The Rosh Hashanah holiday observance begins at sundown on the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 24, continues through Friday, Sept. 26.

The season is fall, with dead leaves under foot, a surprising a time to celebrate a new year. The traditional American observance for the new year is itself at the end of December. What we call the dead of winter, like the death of nature in the fall, may be just the right  time to express the hope of renewal.

Jewish people across the world are about to celebrate a New Year. From the evening of Sept. 24 in the evening through Sept. 26. Rosh HaShanah, literally “the Head of the (New) Year,” is celebrated for two days. These two begin ten days of life review, called the “Days of Awe,” or “Days of Repentance.” The awesomeness of the time might have something to do with tradition that the outcome of the following year, the fortunes and misfortunes for a person, may be at stake.

The Rabbis of old, for example, imagined a book of life and death, wherein is  written the fate of each Jewish person. Even as metaphor, the images reinforce the seriousness of the period, which end in a 25-hour dry fast. The Jewish calendar for the coming year is 5775. Traditional Jews count the years of earthly existence not by geologic time, but by their estimation of Creation in the Bible or Torah. This year is the 5,775th year since the words, “Let there be light,” were spoken, when a theological Big Bang set in motion what would become all that we see around us, including us.

The ten days of prayer and reflection lead to the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, “the Day of Atonement.”  This year it is observed from Friday to Saturday night, Oct. 3 and 4. Just like the traditional American celebration with its New Year’s resolutions, Yom Kippur  is often accompanied by vows to improve a person’s life. The Jewish community not only makes vows to improve, but also asks to be excused or forgiven for vows not completed from the previous year.

There may be historical background to the Kol Nidre or “All Vows” prayer, which begins the solemn evening with beautiful music. Jews ask to be forgiven for broken vows. During times of persecution, Jews were required to renounce their faith and take another. Although the prayer is hundreds of years older than persecution in Spain, the prayer fits the common theme of forgiveness.

When the prayer Kol Nidre is repeated three times, so as to give everyone in attendance the chance to participate, the vows referred to are individual vows. It does exonerate a  Jew from legal vows  or from vows between a Jewish person and someone not Jewish.

At this time of year, Jews are encouraged  to make amends for their mistakes and offenses between themselves and their Lord and themselves and their fellow human beings.  Repentance, prayer, and good deeds, such as charity, help in the process of cleansing the soul. The  end of the fast and a renewed spirit to do and be better are celebrated by a tradition several thousand years old,  the blowing of a ram’s horn, called a shofar.

This past year has been particularly difficult for Jews. Israeli Jews have been under rocket attack and have gone to war with Hamas in Gaza. In addition, anti-Semitism has increased, especially  in Europe, where virulent anti-Semitism contributed to genocide 70 years ago.  No doubt this will be one topic for the many sermons given at synagogues, as Jews look forward with hope to another year.

Services will be held across the Commonwealth and locally at Beth El Temple Center on Concord Avenue.

Sports: Volleyball Races to 6-2 Record as Seniors Lead the Way

For Belmont High School senior Rosy Fitzgerald, the opening of this volleyball season “doesn’t feel quite real.” 

The tall front-line player and her teammates have been having a bit of a dream season, running off to an impressive 6-2 record, losing only to perennial powerhouse and 2012 state champions Melrose High and in a five-set heartbreaker to Bedford High.

“It’s really exciting,” said Fitzgerald, after the Marauders defeated Arlington in three sets on Monday, Sept. 22.

“Today, they played alright,” said Belmont Head Coach Jen Couture of the match against the Spyponders. “They pulled it together and they got the job done.”

The win puts Belmont on track to hit the magic 10 win mark to make the post-season early, unlike the past few years in which the Marauders needed to go to the final game in 2010 and last year to secure a playoff spot.

“Just because we need four wins doesn’t mean we only want four,” said Couture. “We want a lot more.”

In fact. all Couture wanted to talk about on Monday was the match that past Friday, Sept. 19, in which the Maruaders’ dominated a strong Reading Memorial High team for a straight sets away win.

“The girls probably played the best ever with the least errors,” Couture said.

“I feel that the Reading game we were ready at all times and focused,” she said. In the game, back line middle blocker/libero Sam Nelson had 31 digs, many leading to Marauder points.

Fitzgerald said one reason for the success of the team is due to the number of seniors who have played together for the previous two to four years “which gives us a great deal of experience.”

“And everyone cares a lot more about the game and we have a lot more ambition to take the team farther then we have in the past,” she said.

“Now that I have three years of high school and two years of club (Rosy plays for Pumas ) under the belt, I’m feel confident and strong being on this team.

New Electrical Substation, Transmission On Line for Spring 2016 Launch

After listening to Belmont Light General Manager James Palmer at public meeting Tuesday, Sept. 23, the best way to described the work to bring on line a new electrical substation and laying out a transmission route through town is “hunky-dory.”

Since being approved by Special Town Meeting in Feb. 2012, the town-owned electric utility proposal to meet the town’s increasing power requirements has been steaming along right on schedule, Palmer told a meeting of the joint meeting of the Belmont Light Board (made up of the Board of Selectmen) and its Advisory Board held at the Beech Street Center.

“Progress has been made, and we are hard at work to have this project up and running by the Spring of 2016,” said Palmer.

While the multimillion dollar project will effect everyone who turns on a switch in their home or business in Belmont, only a handful of rate paying residents showed up for the presentation which reviewed the steps taken so far by the utility and some of the challenges it could face in the future.

Since 2012, Belmont Light has moved on finding a location for the substation and obtaining the property, clearing regulatory hurdles and laying out the best route for the new electrical lines after securing easements and state approval.

“As you can see, we’ve made great progress in a short amount of time,” said Palmer.

The new Belmont Light substation. (credit: Belmont Light)

The new Belmont Light substation. (credit: Belmont Light)

Palmer said the project’s most noticeable accomplishment can be seen at the substation’s new home off Brighton Street on Flanders Road. The building that was once the home of Crate Escape, the dog day care business, has been demolished as the location is being readied for construction.

The town issued a Request for Proposal to build the $5 million, 10,000 sq.-ft. structure with bids due by Oct. 31 with a contract awarded soon afterwards.

“These are huge milestones,” said Palmer.

The new substation – which will house a new 115-kV single loop transmission line – is being built in partnership with the regional utility NSTAR. Rate payers will be on the line for $26.1 million in long-term bonding.

While out of sight, the transmission line bringing power from the substation to homes and businesses is also proceeding, although at a much slower rate. While Belmont Light will lay the line on the south side of the MBTA/Fitchburg commuter rail line, the utility will need to coordinate with the MBTA, which currently has a construction project at the site.

“This could impact our schedule,” said Palmer, saying it’s doubtful both projects could simultaneous work “side-by-side” at the same time.

As part of meeting the project’s regulatory requirements, Belmont Light made an initial presentation to ISO-New England, the independent, non-profit regional transmission organization that operates New England’s power grid and oversees the wholesale electricity market.

“If the project is deemed a benefit to the surrounding communities, which it is, then the cost of the transmission lines will be shared regionally,” said Palmer.

When asked by Slate Street’s Roger Wrubel if a positive ISO response to Belmont Light’s presentations would save either Belmont Light or NSTAR money, Palmer said both entities would benefit in the cost cut.

Moving forward this fall, Palmer said the town has issued a RFP for the transmission lines, and new major electrical equipment will be purchased along with the substation’s contractor named.

And while changing market conditions could increase the cost of construction, Palmer said he believes the contingency set aside in the budget will sufficiently meet any future “surprises,” said Palmer.

Lougee, Fiore Set to Run for Re-election to Belmont School Committee

Incumbents Anne Lougee and Lisa Fiore indicated that they are preparing to defend their seats on the Belmont School Committee at Town Election in April 2015.

“I don’t see why not,” Lougee told the Belmontonian after the Belmont School Committee meeting last night, Tuesday, Sept. 23. Fiore also said she expects to run to return to the six-member board.

Both Lougee and Fiore will be seeking full three-year terms to the board.

Lougee, a Warwick Road resident whose daughter is a Belmont High School graduate, was appointed to the Committee in October 2011 to fill the reminder of the term formerly held by Karen Parmett who resigned. She won a full term in the Town Election in April 2012.

Like Lougee, Fiore – a Lesley University faculty dean with children in district schools – was appointed to the committee, in September 2013, to serve the term of Pascha Griffiths who also resigned. In the 2014 Town Election, Fiore was elected to fill the one year remaining on Griffiths’ term.

Sports: Herlihy’s Heroics Leads Girls’ Soccer to Shutout Win

With seven minutes gone in the second half of Belmont High School’s Girls’ Soccer game with Woburn High at Harris Field on Monday, Sept. 22, a Belmont defender shanked an attempted clearance that flew backwards falling at the feet of a Tanner forward with no one between her and Marauder senior goalkeeper Linda Herlihy.

The player took four steps then hit a low, hard shot from 16 meters towards the open right side of the Belmont net. A goal would bring Woburn back from a 2-0 hole and provide a critical lift for the Tanners in the match.

But for the fifth time in the game – and not the last – Herlihy stood up to pressure, lunging to her left to block the drive and preserve the shutout.

“You just have to go for it, honestly,” Herlihy told the Belmontonian about the save. “Part of it’s luck. I just do what I can.”

“[Assistant Head] Coach [Stacie] Marino says you go for it fully or you stay off; you can’t hesitate. So I went full out and it worked,” said Herlihy.

In a career performance, Herlihy stonewalled six open shots, including two breakaway attempts, to earn her fourth clean sheet of the season and propel Belmont to the 2-0 victory over Woburn.

The win gives Belmont a 5-1-0 record, its only loss a 4-1 defeat to host Arlington at the beginning of the three game stretch.

“It was one of my best games but I had a lot of help from everyone else especially our defense. It’s nice since we’re all veterans in the back,” said Herlihy.

“There was a cast of thousands that were stars tonight,” said Paul Graham, Belmont’s longtime head coach.

“It started with [Herlihy], she was spectacular. Then there was the made-up midfield of [freshman] Emma Sass and [senior] Alexandra Dionne who went after the ball and were relentless,” said Graham.

For the second game, the play was particularly physical – Belmont earned a pair of yellow cards for rough actions – in which the opposing coach told Graham the game was won “because you muscled us off the ball.”

Belmont first goal was typical of the match’s hurly-burly nature as senior midfielder Sophia Eisenbach-Smith reached a long pass from Katrina Rokosz just ahead of Woburn goalkeeper Olivia Carbone. Rather than step aside or set up a pass, Eisenbach-Smith slammed the ball off Carbone, and saw it float into the back of the net within the final 7 minutes of the first half. 

Before the half ended, Herlihy would make a spectacular save off a sharp shot from her right as the ball hit the post and stayed out.

Belmont started fast in the second half, pressing Woburn which set up the Marauders’ second goal when Kristin Gay’s kick in the 36th minute was redirected off a Woburn defender past Carbone for an own-goal.

Then it was up to Herlihy to save the points for her team; coming out to stuff a breakaway on the left, parrying away a tight angle shot on the right, the aforementioned spectacular save and finally reaching back to save a certain goal off a shot from a Woburn corner kick in the final minutes. (see photo sequence of the save in the photo gallery below)

“What can you say,” said Graham. “Linda was great.”


Belmont Residents Daily Commute Time Mirrors US

At least when it comes to getting to work or school, Belmont residents are just about average.

That information is according to a new interactive map developed by the innovated data news team at New York’s WNYC which tabulated the average travel times (whether it is by car, mass transit, bike or walking) to work via ZIP Code by mining information from the US Census Bureau.

According to WNYC, a Belmont resident averages 25.9 minutes travel time to work or school, slightly higher – by just about 30 seconds – then the national average of 25.4 minutes. Just over the line in Arlington and North Cambridge, commutes are five minutes longer while in Waltham, daily travel is shorter by three minutes.

Just think how much shorter those times would be once all the construction is completed and the roads repaired?

Belmont Fire Log: Angry Bees Have Grandma On the Run

Late night entry

Sept. 14: Just before 11 p.m., Engine 2 was sent to a Stewart Terrace (that’s near Belmont Acres Farm) house. Seems like someone forgot their keys and needed assistance getting inside.

Too hot for modern technology

Sept. 15: If anyone was wondering why the entire Belmont Fire Department was outside the Butler School just before 10 a.m., not to worry. It was due to a faulty heat sensor in the gym.

What’s the order? Child, keys, door, lock? D’uh!

Sept. 15: It was a quarter to 3 p.m. and a parent had just picked up their child from Belmont Nursery School on Belmont Street. The fire log doesn’t exactly say how what was about to occurred happened, but the parent apparently got their child in the car, flipped on the lock, closed the door and … remember that their keys where in the now locked car … with the kid. Engine 1 came by straight away to liberate the child.

Bee-ware: Not-so-friendly bees require a fire rescue

Sept. 16: Firefighters in the Belmont Center station on Leonard Avenue were surprised by a distraught grandmother who rushed into the firehouse just after 10 a.m. She and her granddaughter had just driven to the Center when, unknown to granny, she some how disturbed a bee hive as she was parking the car on nearby Alexander Avenue. As she alighted to take the child out, grandma was suddenly attacked by several now not-so-friendly bees. After slamming the door shut, the grandmother ran over to the fire station. Could they help? In a few seconds, one of the ladder truck crew got inside the car and drove the vehicle to a safer and bee free area.

Outside, looking in

Sept 16: Just after 2 p.m., yet another resident – this one on Gilbert Road – required the fire department’s help getting them back inside their house.

Where did I leave my keys? 

Sept. 18: At a quarter past 2 p.m., a motorist left the keys in their car in Belmont Center. At least Engine 2 firefighters didn’t have to travel far to open it; it was parked less than a block away outside the old Macy’s location on Leonard Avenue.

Collecting too much

Sept. 19: When Belmont firefighters and police arrived to conduct a well-being check on a Common Street resident just after noon, they couldn’t locate the homeowner but they did find his junk, and a whole lot of it. Apparently the person is a hoarder and the home’s condition has been reported in the past to the police and the town’s Health Department.

Keep your cooking INSIDE the Weber

Sept. 19: About 20 minutes past 8 p.m., fire crews arrived to a Thomas Street house for an emergency in the back. It was barbecue smoke. That’s OK. However, the crews came back shortly after 9 p.m. when the BBQ turning into an old-time campfire. That’s not OK. In fact, it’s a code violation in these parts.

The angry bee used in this article can be found on the website of children’s writer Chris (as in Christine) Cander. Check out her site at

Voter Registration Until 8 PM Today at Belmont Town Hall

To celebrate National Voter Registration Day, the Belmont Town Clerk’s office will remain open until 8 p.m. today, Tuesday, Sept. 23.

Residents of Belmont who are citizens of the United States and will be age 18 or older on the day of the State election, Nov. 4, may register to vote at the Town Clerk’s office in Town Hall, 455 Concord Ave. Registrants should be certain to have identification that complies with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

Belmont High’s Career Night, with Actual Workers, Tonight

More than 50 recent high school/college graduates will be advising high school seniors and juniors on the actual world of work at Belmont High School’s Real World Career Night tonight, Tuesday, Sept. 23, in the school’s cafeteria from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

BHS senior Tess Hayner has recruit young professionals who graduated from Belmont High and any other public or private high school between 1999 and 2010 to participate in this evening of short, informal talks with the school’s upperclassmen to share stories of their own work experience and discuss possible career paths.

This evening’s schedule is:

  • 6 p.m.: Volunteers arrive in the Belmont High School cafeteria.
  • 6:15 p.m. – 6:25 p.m.: Session 1 students arrive and get assignments.
  • 6:25 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.: Welcome and instructions for Session 1.
  • 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.: Seven minute conversations with a two-minute rotation.
  • 7:30 p.m. – 7:45 p.m.: Break for Volunteers / Arrival of Session 2 students.
  • 7:45 p.m. – 7:50 p.m.: Welcome and instructions for Session 2.
  • 7:50 p.m. – 8:50 p.m.:  Seven minute conversations with a two-minute rotation.