NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS) -- The Jewish New Year -- Rosh Hashanah -- begins at sunset Wednesday evening. It also marks one of the major holidays of Judaism and the start of the "High Holy Day" period, which ends a week from Saturday.
Rabbi Jeffrey Sirkman of the Larchmont Temple was deep in thought in the final hours before Rosh Hashanah. Wednesday night, as his first act of the High Holy Days, he will address a packed house and help his congregants reflect on what it means to be Jewish.
"The holy days are a big mirror as if you were getting fitted for a suit. It's one of those three-way mirrors-- so you not only see yourself from all sides, but you see what's around you," Sirkman said.
And conflict is what is seemingly all around. Jews this year are facing questions about the future of Israel and relations with Muslims here in the United States -- especially the controversy over the Manhattan mosque, CBS 2's Lou Young reported.
"We're very, very sensitive to the realities of religious freedom, the nature of what's happening with the Cordoba Center. Jews come down on all sides. We worry about what's going on in Israel. It's a time when the opportunity for a two-state solution seems very ripe and a year from now, it may not be a reality," Sirkman said.
A Jewish Video On Demand service is also taking the High Holidays to high-tech. Shalom-TV, a station devoted to Jewish culture and public affairs is offering Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur programming to those unable to make it to synagogue.
Shalom TV president Rabbi Mark S. Golub told 1010 WINS' Steve Sandberg, the VOD service was not meant as a replacement for going to synagogue, but rather a way to help those who can't attend because of "infirmities or because they live so far away from a synagogue."
Golub also hopes Shalom TV will attract young, more technologically savvy Jews and encourage them to participate.
Golub called it "a shame if not a crime that the Jewish community has not utilized the power of television to bring a Jewish experience," Golub said.
Shalom TV will offer the ability to view various portions of the service including Torah readings, Shofar Service, Kol Nidre, Yizkor Memorial Service, and Golub's own sermons.
The reflections, though, are mostly personal on Rosh Hashanah. The people packing synagogues and sitting in overflow tents at services booked months in advance are asked to think about their personal shortcomings and to seek forgiveness where appropriate.
"You can call someone and say, 'If I've wronged you in any way this year do you forgive me?' And you most always say 'yes.' And the rest is between you and God," worshiper Jennifer Fraenkel said.
Most of the rabbis CBS 2 spoke with Wednesday didn't have time to do interviews. They were too busy getting ready for the holiday, but some took time to explain that thios idea of global reflection and personal reflection are mreged in Rosh Hashanah.
It's one of the reasons that when you get into Judaism you'll find out there's no such thing as a personal confession but rather the single day of atonement, Yom Kippur the day at the end of the high holy days.
The Jewish New Year of 5771 begins with the sounding of the Sho-Far or ram's horn at sunset -- eighteen minutes after 7 p.m. Wednesday night.
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