The Jewish community in the United States is observing Rosh Hashanah, the traditional Jewish New Year. It will be a somber holiday with heightened security at synagogues around the city and nation.
Jewish houses of worship are already under heavy guard as a result of the deadly terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. But with the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah this week and Yom Kippur next week, security around synagogues across the nation is being tightened. This is particularly true in New York, the home of the largest Jewish community in the Untied States.
Arthur Schneier is head Rabbi at Park East Synagogue and a prominent participant in New York's ecumenical community. He says he has never seen such a surge in people wanting to attend services. "Among the congregants," he said, "will be families of employees that were killed in the terror attack. In the congregation will be members of the National Guard who were called up. It is not business as usual and it should not be."
Rabbi Schneier, a Holocaust survivor, says his sermon this year will differ from previous years, focusing on the forces of good and evil. He said, "The first prayer is 'God Bless America' because we are engaged in a war, as President Bush said. It is interesting that Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, is the birth of Adam and the birth of mankind, humanity. Too often we have seen in different generations there were those evil forces who sought to destroy humanity and that is exactly what we are facing today."
The Rosh Hashanah observation will last through Wednesday. Many synagogues in New York have departed from traditional services and are including clergy from other religions. Congregation Emanu-El is observing Rosh Hashanah with two Roman Catholic priests, two protestant ministers, an Islamic Sheikh and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.