A different High Holidays dinner

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

With the dawning of the Jewish High Holidays, I always enjoy reflecting upon the year that is coming to a close as well as pondering what the future may hold.  Having recently visited Israel, I find myself filled with a renewed sense of spiritual holiness. Realizing up-close the centuries of struggles that have taken place upon such arid and sacred ground, I find it easier than ever to count the blessings that have been abundantly bestowed upon my family.

Like many Jews, we plan to have a Festival Meal on Rosh Hashanah.  This was a tradition in my family of origin.  Even though I have mysteriously evolved into a Jew who doesn’t enjoy most holidays foods (yes, I actually said it!), I will see to it that our guests are served all the traditional delicacies that have come to make up New Year’s dinner: chicken soup, matzah balls, brisket, honey cake…okay, I draw the line at tzimmis, but you get my point!  This may not qualify as the healthiest meal of 2017, but everyone leaves satisfied, having enjoyed his fill of nourishment, tradition and spirituality.

This fall, as we travel to synagogue, we may grumble about the traffic on Ladue and Ballas, but we are content in the knowledge that our House of Worship is standing strong against Mother’s Nature’s elements, whatever her whims may be. Sadly, as every media source has shown us, such is not the case for many Jewish families.  Is it fair that family traditions must be pushed aside in favor of preserving family safety? While we will drive to synagogue, our neighbors in Texas and Florida are sloshing and canoeing to any safe high ground or open shelter. As we look forward to our delicious holiday meal, our fellow Jews who have been the hardest hit by recent hurricanes are wondering when their next meal will be consumed…no longer even contemplating returning to their kitchens and their homes.  

If your idea of keeping fit during the holidays includes taking long walks as a family, perhaps in a neighboring park where trees are just beginning to sprout red, gold and orange leaves, please consider those whose entire holiday may be taken up with arduous hikes through rain-filled streets, standing in line for dwindling supplies of fresh water and gasoline, or running around searching frantically for family members before every rooftop around them becomes a torn and distant memory. 

There are many ways to exercise one’s heart.  I like engaging in aerobic exercise as much as anyone, having dedicated my career to fitness.  However, the heart’s capacity does not begin and end with a good run or a 30-mile bike ride.  It gives and gives without running dry, if we simply know how to “prime the pump”.  Thoughtfulness, compassion, kindness to strangers…all of these random acts help our hearts to work harder and much more effectively, circulating more than just blood throughout the body.  Think of this as a double-effort exercise.  Each of us carries the capacity to fill another with basic survival and hope in times of crises.  In turn, we find ourselves filled with a spirit unlike another other.


This year, as you shop for Rosh Hashanah holiday meals, please consider setting aside some of those dollars for donation to Hurricane Harvey / Irma Relief Funds.

It is as easy as contacting local food banks in affected areas, as well as Jewish Federations and Community Centers, and sending aid electronically.  Trust me: improving your heart’s ability to grow will satisfy you longer than any brisket dinner!