Jewish New Year Starts at Sundown

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Jews in the Southland and around the world today will celebrate the first day of Rosh Hashana, the two-day holiday marking the Jewish New Year and ushering in a 10-day period of repentance and contemplation leading to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

Services marking the arrival of the year 5779 on the Hebrew calendar were held Sunday night -- the day starts at sundown on the Jewish Calendar -- and featured the blowing of the shofar, a ram's horn mentioned in the Torah and used by ancient Jews in religious ceremonies and as a call to arms and now used at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Rosh Hashana is a time when Jews gather with family members and their communities to reflect on the past year and the one beginning. Celebrants also eat festive meals featuring apples dipped in honey, symbolic of the wishes for a sweet year.

Rosh Hashana begins a period of contemplation and repentance culminating in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Judaism's most solemn and somber day.

During the High Holy Days, Jewish tradition holds that God records the fate of each person for the coming year in the Book of Life, which is sealed at the end of Yom Kippur.

“The Jewish practice of reflection, atonement, and remembrance during this holy period not only strengthens Jewish communities, but inspires all Americans,” President Donald Trump said in a call to Jewish leaders on Thursday. “Over the centuries, the Jewish people have suffered unthinkable persecution, yet you have not only endured, you have thrived and flourished as an example of humankind.”

Although most congregations require membership and tickets for High Holy Days services, some synagogues and organizations hold services and Rosh Hashana observances that are open to the public at no charge.

The Chai Center held a no-cost service from 6:45-8:30 p.m. Sunday at the Writers Guild Theater at 135 S. Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills. The service was followed by what was billed as “The Largest Jewish New Year's Eve Party” from 8:30-10:30 p.m.”

Another service will be held from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. today.

The Chai Center describes itself as “a very nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the Jewish community of Greater Los Angeles” with such events as a “Dinner for 60 Strangers” each Friday evening, classes on a variety of topics of Judaism, and singles parties “for Conservative, Reform, non-affiliates and any Jew that moves.”

A free service will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Laugh Factory at 8001 Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, conducted in the Reform Jewish tradition by Rabbi Bob Jacobs.

This is the 35th year High Holy Days services will be held at the Laugh Factory. Due to high attendance, people are asked to arrive at 10 a.m. More information on the service is available by calling (323) 656-1336 or by emailing

“Two of the main reasons I love doing this is it gives so many actors, writers, comedians, and the entire Hollywood community who are away from their families a place to pray for the holidays,” club owner Jamie Masada said.

“So many people cannot afford the high cost of tickets that most temples charge in order to attend services. At the Laugh Factory Temple, all are welcome to come and pray.”

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