Beginning Sunday night, Jews 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.
Local rabbis and Nassau County authorities have also made assurances that special safeguards, including heightened police patrols around synagogues during the High Holidays, will be in place here in Nassau County.
Rosh Hashanah begins the "10 days each year that we devote our full attention to the question: 'how can we be better people in the coming year?'" said Rabbi Steven Conn, spiritual leader of the Plainview Jewish Center.
"For that reason, my reflections tend to focus on the everyday challenges we face as individuals and families, rather than geopolitical issues."
The Plainview synagogue "will stand in solidarity with the State of Israel, and pray for the welfare of Israel and all humanity," Rabbi Conn said. "But our main focus will be on the personal, not the political."
It was a theme echoed by Rabbi David Ross Senter, spiritual leader of Plainview's Manetto Hill Jewish Center.
"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 shofar, readings from a special prayer book, the mahzor, and wonderful 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. Rabbi Michael Churgel said Temple Beth Elohim 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. Authorities have announced they will beef up patrols around area synagogues during the High Holidays. Just this week, an American diplomat was murdered in Libya and violent anti-American protests have spawned across the region.
Stressing there is no specific threat here, federal law enforcement officials have briefed local Jewish leaders about what security measures they can take. Many Long Island synagogues have heeded the warning and heightened security efforts.
Senter said security is being taken "very seriously."
Conn added that "as usual, our synagogue will be very secure during the High Holidays. While there is no imminent threat, we take our responsibility to our congregation and our community very seriously.
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.]