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Millions Celebrating Rosh Hashanah, Start Of Jewish High Holidays

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Millions of people are celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish High Holidays.

It's the year 5778 and New York City's estimated 1.1 million Jews are gathering to celebrate and wish each other Shana Tovah u'metuka.

EXTRANY Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Guide

"Which means not only have a good year, but have a sweet year," East Side Synagogue Rabbi Perry Berkowitz told CBS2's Tony Aiello.

Berkowitz is leading services at the East Side synagogue, which meets inside a Unitarian church on Lexington Avenue. The modern service features a dancer, an ancient art form especially benefiting Rosh Hashanah.

"It marks not only the creation of the world, but the creation of the first human being and it reminds us that each of us are here for a purpose, that we're not here accidentally," Berkowitz said.

The High Holidays encourage Jews to examine that purpose and discern their progress towards it.

"We are a very old people," said East Side resident Terry Phelan. "This is a time to reflect and think, basically, and pray."

At congregations around New York, Rosh Hashanah will be marked with the blowing of the shofar, the loud bleat of the ram's horn intended to awaken people.

"Too many people are going through life sleepwalking and the idea of the shofar is to jolt you," Berkowitz said.

"Just feel it right through you and you feel awake," said East Side resident Judy Wolfe."A chance to start again."

Berkowitz says it's a day for Jews to pray for the entire world, which is why he has Christian and Muslim faith leaders join him for the blowing of the shofar later Thursday afternoon.

The Jewish New Year begins a 10-day period of High Holidays, culminating with Yom Kippur on Sept. 29.

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