With the start of the Jewish High Holy Days at sundown Friday and the anniversary of the suicide strikes just days away, members of the Westfield, N.J., congregation are struggling along with Jews around the country to put the past year behind them.
``There's a great sense of sadness covering everything right now,'' said Associate Rabbi Renee Edelman, whose friend died in the attacks.
The High Holy Days, Judaism's annual 10-day period of self-examination, begins with the Jewish New Year, called Rosh Hashana. It ends Sept. 16 with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews admit their sins and reconcile with God.
It is the most solemn time of the year for Jews, who believe God determines during the holy days who will live and die in the coming year.
Rabbis nationwide said this season's prayers will have special significance, as the U.S. war on terror and Mideast violence continue. Last year, the terrorist hijackings occurred right before Rosh Hashana, which is marked by a lunar calendar.
``The High Holy Days are about facing our mortality,'' said Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, head of the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary of America. ``That's a perspective that encourages us to appreciate the ultimate significance of every moment.''
That is the message Edelman, a Reform rabbi, plans for her sermons. Her congregation organized support groups for women whose husbands were killed in the attacks and asked psychiatrists to run programs for traumatized congregants.
At the Arlington-Fairfax Jewish Congregation in Virginia, Rabbi Lia Bass will talk about how fear can lead people to examine their lives and bring them closer to God. Her Conservative congregation sits a half-mile from the Pentagon, where 189 people were killed Sept. 11.
``Fear can be paralyzing or fear can make you change,'' she said.
Many Jews are also concerned about safety at their synagogues, after FBI warnings this year of threats against Jewish congregations. In some communities, worshippers will have to show a photo identification before entering their sanctuaries and local police will be guarding buildings.
Orthodox Rabbi Mark Schneier, president of the North American Boardc of Rabbis, which represents clergy in the United States and Canada, said he hoped U.S. Jews will not focus exclusively on the situation at home, considering all the suffering from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He plans to offer a special prayer at services in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., about looking ahead with optimism despite the tragedies of the previous months.
``Let the old year end with all its problems, all its frustrations and all its heartaches,'' he said, reading from the Talmud, the collection of writings that constitute Jewish law. ``Let a New Year begin, a New Year filled with blessing, with joy, with happiness and fulfillment.''