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Special meals, joyful family gatherings, reflective services at her synagogue — Gabby Harvey welcomes all that accompanies the Jewish New Year.

"It brings everyone together," said the 16-year-old high school student from Farmington Hills. "It's a happy time."

Thousands of Jews across Metro Detroit are preparing for Rosh Hashana, which begins at sundown Wednesday. Some celebrate through nightfall Friday; others do so until Thursday.

The holiday — which means "head of the year" in Hebrew — marks the start of the year 5775 on the Jewish calendar as well as the Days of Awe.

Those culminate Oct. 3-4 with Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement — considered the holiest day for Jews.

According to tradition, during this time God opens the "Book of Life," inscribing the births, deaths, successes and suffering to fill the coming year.

As such, adherents are in deep reflection, pondering their deeds and seeking forgiveness of sins.

Many also consider the world at large — including those affected by the deadly conflict this summer between Israel and Hamas over Gaza as well as turmoil in the Middle East.

"We live in a tough world right now … but we will persevere and we will celebrate our holiday and look forward to a better time next year," said Dr. Richard Krugel, president at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit, which represents an area that has an estimated 65,000 Jews.

"It's a time for Jews to get together. It's a time to renew our faith and renew our prayers for the Jewish people and for the world."

Part of that lies in spiritual contemplation.

A significant symbol during services at synagogues is the shofar, a ram's horn, which is sounded as a call to worship.

It's not only a nod to ancient times, "it's supposed to wake us out of complacency … remind us that big and important things are going on," said Rabbi Jennifer Lader of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield Township.

Amid the activities, Logan Ben-Ezra, a longtime member of the synagogue, embraces the spiritual reflection synonymous with the holiday.

Besides thinking of his family and remembering friends made during an abbreviated mission trip to Israel this summer, the teen said, "I reflect back on what I've done and what I've done in the past and what I can do differently."

Others focus on demonstrating another aspect of Judaism: helping out.

Volunteers headed by the TOV Committee, an initiative through the Women's Philanthropy program at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, gathered Sunday at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield. The group assembled and delivered some 500 boxes full of applesauce, challah rolls, personalized holiday cards and other items to residents in more than 40 senior homes across the region.

That follows what's often stressed in Jewish tenets: "We're supposed to take care of each other," said Margo Lazar, a committee co-chairwoman. "We're supposed to be thinking about other people. We always want to take care of those in the community."

Festive meals also are a feature of the holiday. For that, customers are taking advantage of the longer hours at the One Stop Kosher market in Southfield this week to find honey — which symbolizes the sweetness of a new year — as well as wine, dumplings and other goods to add to their spreads, manager Shmuel Scheiner said.

"They're looking for things to make the holiday special."

mhicks@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2117

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