The Jewish observance of Rosh Hashana -- beginning at sunset today through sunset Friday -- celebrates the new year 5774, and with a message of reflection and rebirth is particularly relevant in turbulent times, according to area religious leaders.
"It's a very dangerous world out there," said Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin of Congregation Ahavath Achim in Fairfield. He specifically referred to Syria, where leader Bashar al-Assad is suspected of using chemical weapons against people, killing more than 1,400 Syrians. Congress may vote next week on whether to authorize a strike on the country.
Rocklin also expressed concerns about continued tensions between Iran and Israel.
Rosh Hashana is a time to hope for the best, he said, and one thing that many are hoping for is a peaceful resolution to international conflicts.
"It's a Jewish-specific day, but it involves the fate of all people around the world," Rocklin said.
Rabbi Jon Haddon, rabbi emeritus of Temple Shearith Israel in Ridgefield, agreed that the violence, and fear of violence, in the Middle East is something the faithful should reflect on this holiday.
"We are living with such turmoil in the world," he said. "If we ever needed the hope and strength that religion could provide, it's right now. This is a time of renewal and casting away the mistakes of our past and starting with a clear slate. We are hoping for peace and for a resolution to the terrible turmoil in the Middle East."
The holiday isn't just about praying and hoping for a better world -- it's also about working to achieve that world. And that's what leaders at Temple Beth-El in Stamford have been trying to do. Rabbi Joshua Hammerman said the synagogue has been working to make itself more environmentally responsible.
"We're placing a focus and sustainability and how we can combat climate change," he said.
These efforts include installing solar panels on the synagogue, a feature that will be introduced during this week's Rosh Hashana services. Hammerman said helping to preserve the planet and the lives of those inhabiting it is also consistent with the holiday's message.
"One of the refrains (of Rosh Hashana) is `Today the world is born' -- not just on a date years ago, but a rebirth that occurs every day and every year," he said.