Then our family joined streams of neighbors walking to the neighborhood synagogue, an imposing gray stone building that seemed like an impenetrable fortress.
I always held my father's hand on those autumn mornings when the world felt fresh, new and wonderfully safe. I loved that walk, with his big hand wrapped around mine.
This Rosh Hashanah, my husband and I will drive to Congregation M'Kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, a modern synagogue with a vast parking lot. Fewer people walk to synagogue these days. Because we are relatively new members, many of the faces will be unfamiliar.
Nobody tells me what to wear now, but my nonagenarian mother will still surely look me over and weigh in on the presentability quotient. And I will miss my father, who has been gone for years, more achingly on this day than most.
But in some important ways, the mood will be as it always was on this holiday, with that familiar sense of expectancy about a year wrapped in shiny newness, and the anticipatory pleasure of a family gathering after morning services.
Yes, the holiday rhythms seem almost immutable, marrow-deep. Except that, this year, I'm bracing for a change that I could not have imagined in those cocooned years of my childhood.
This year, as our synagogue bulletin reminds us, we must be prepared for heavy security at the suburban building where we go to ask God for a sweet and healthy new year.
We will absolutely need our printed tickets to enter the building. We may even need some form of identification. These are no longer the days when everyone knew everyone, and your face was your ticket.
This year, we need to be prepared for pocketbook searches. "Some or all items such as pocketbooks may be inspected," the bulletin explains, citing "heightened awareness of security concerns" in the careful language of post-Sept. 11, 2001.
A police officer will be posted at the main office entrance during all services. As our rabbi told me recently, "We do what we must." Other area synagogues are working out similar security preparations.
Of course, I understand - even applaud - these sensible efforts to maintain the safety of congregants in a world in which nothing is certain, not even security in a house of worship.
In some ways, it seems grotesque. A synagogue should be a sanctuary - a safe, holy place.
In other ways, it seems almost fitting. The history of Judaism spans streams of tears, centuries of bloodshed and pain.
But this is America, land of the free. So my husband and I will no doubt have to explain to our grandchildren why a police officer is at the synagogue door, even as we remind them that we are still so blessed to live in this nation as Jews.
Sam, the most curious of the little ones, will probably need to know whether the officer has a gun. And again we will be called upon to have the wisdom of Solomon as we find words to reconcile a police presence in a synagogue.
So would I like to avoid this conversation with Sam? Would I want the Rosh Hashanah synagogue routines to be as carefree as they used to be? Absolutely.
Would I give anything not to have handbag searches at my synagogue? Of course.
Yet I heed the wake-up call. Airplanes have crashed into buildings, killing thousands of innocents. Suicide bombers still carry out their attacks elsewhere. Anti-Semitism is alive and well, and may even be living in South Jersey.
So synagogues are wise to take precautions. I need to understand and accept them.
But as I pray for the blessings of a sweet and healthy new year, I will also send up a prayer that, next year, or the next, we can enter our synagogues in a safer world.
Sally Friedman writes from Moorestown.