LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Rosh Hashana, the two-day holiday marking the Jewish New Year and ushering in a 10-day period of repentance and contemplation, begins at sundown today amid concerns about safety by some Southland Jews.
“Certainly in the past couple of years, people have become more anxious,” Rabbi Jonathan Kupetz of Temple Beth Israel, a Reform congregation in Pomona, told CBS2.
American Jews experienced near-record levels of attacks in 2018, including the deadliest attack against the Jewish community on U.S. soil, according to the Anti-Defamation League. A woman was killed and three other people were injured in a mass shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in suburban San Diego County on April 27.
Elevated security procedures at Temple Beth Israel include requiring all attendees for Rosh Hashana services to have hard copies of their tickets and first-time guests to register in advance with the synagogue's office.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles' Community Security Initiative was among four recipients of $50,000 emergency grants from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles in response to the Oct. 27 mass shooting at the Tree of Life-Or L'Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh that left 11 people dead and seven others injured.
The initiative was created in 2012 to serve as a single point of contact for critical incident coordination, information and intelligence sharing, safety and security training and resources for all Jewish organizations in the Los Angeles area.
It has compiled a database linking hundreds of Jewish sites, conducted visits to more than 266 synagogues, schools and other institutions and trained more than 2,000 people in safety and security awareness, according to the federation.
The initiative is staffed with former and retired law enforcement, government and military professionals with expertise in security best practices.
The Los Angeles Police Department will monitor what is going on around the city and nation as is customary and could increase patrols near synagogues, Los Angeles Police Department Officer Tony Im told City News Service.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department will conduct an assessment today, according to the Sheriff's Information Bureau.
Services marking the arrival of the year 5780 on the Hebrew calendar will be held tonight -- days begin at sundown on the Hebrew calendar -- and feature 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 Hashana 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.
“As men, women, and children around the world partake in traditional liturgy and enjoy customary meals with loved ones, we are all reminded of the virtues we can incorporate into our lives to better us as a nation -- kindness, compassion and love,” President Donald Trump said in his Rosh Hashana message.
“Together, with devotion to these ideals, we can form more sincere bonds with people of all faiths to help spread peace and prosperity in the United States and abroad.”
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 will hold a no-cost service from 6:30-8:30 p.m. tonight at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills. The service will be followed by what is 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. Monday.
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. Monday at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, conducted in the Reform Jewish tradition by Rabbi Bob Jacobs.
This is the 36th year High Holy Days services will be held at the Laugh Factory. Due to high attendance, reservations are requested to be made by calling 323-656-1336 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the number of guests, contact number, & ZIP code.
People planning to attend are requested to arrive early in order to be accommodated indoors.
“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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