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Rosh Hashanah: Joy, Reflection in a Time of Turmoil

The Jewish New Year 5773 arrives at sunset on Sunday.

Beginning Sunday night, Jewish people across the world will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year 5773, a period of both joy and reflection that arrives at a time of escalating violence in the Middle East.

Long Island rabbinical leaders are vowing that their Rosh Hashanah services will not dwell on an unstable world but, rather, focus on introspection and spiritual growth of the individual — the usual procedure of the 2,000-year-old tradition, said Gabbi Stanley Rubin of in Greenport.

"We concentrate more on introspection, trying to set our goals for the new year," he said. "We review that which we have done and how we can improve ourselves. Really, it's something that is just inscribed into the book of life — we're working to bring ourselves closer to God."

New student Rabbi Liz Piper will be conducting Rosh Hashanah services at the in Cutchogue, which shares a space with the First Presbyterian Church. Synagogue member Irwin Freeman said that it's up to each individual Rabbi — the synagogue has a new student Rabbi every year — to decide what issues to address during the sermon, but most of it specifically follows the Torah.

"And we are open to all forms of worship — we are very ecumenical in our approach," Freeman said.

Further west on Long Island, the Plainview synagogue "will stand in solidarity with the State of Israel, and pray for the welfare of Israel and all humanity," Rabbi Steven Conn said. "But our main focus will be on the personal, not the political."

It was a theme echoed by Rabbi , spiritual leader of Plainview's

"The American Jewish community always has Israel and the United States of America in the forefront of our prayers," Rabbi Senter said. "We believe our two countries are partners in efforts for making a better world for all humanity."

Senter added: "May G-D bless the entire community of humanity with peace and well being in this coming year."

Rosh Hashanah [in Hebrew ראש השנה‎, literally "head of the year"] is the first of the High Holy Days known for the sounding of the, readings from a special prayer book, the mahzor, and traditional foods.

It's first full day often includes a tashlikh service, where prayers are recited near flowing water and participants symbolically cast away their sins. said in Old Bethpage will hold their tashlikh service at Jones Beach Monday, where its members will cast environmentally friendly breadcrumbs into the sea.

Across that very ocean, the tumultuous Arab Spring and its threatening repercussions in the United States have police on increased alert. Just this week, an American diplomat was murdered in Libya and violent anti-American protests have spawned across the region.

The Yamim Nora'im [or "Days of Awe,"] culminate with Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar known as "The Day of Atonement, which falls on Sept. 25 this year.

[Editor's Note: G-D is intentionally spelled in this manner to honor a Jewish tradition.]

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