The holiday, which officially began Monday night, marks the Jewish New Year and the start of the High Holy Days, a 10-day period of reflection. The season ends with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews communally admit their sins and reconcile with God.
Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein, leading services at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in Manhattan, said the more than 300 firefighters who died trying to save others from the crumbling World Trade Center should serve as a model during this time of self-examination.
In the past week, the tough, individualistic city of New York has become a caring and compassionate community, he said. He urged congregants to maintain those values in the year ahead.
``Our city changed. It is no longer just about ourselves and our achievements,'' Bronstein said.
Temple Sholom in Chicago added to the holiday's many rituals by singing ``The Star-Spangled Banner.''
``There's been a stronger reminder of patriotism, which is very welcome in the services--a reminder that we are Jews and Americans and human beings, not one or the other,'' said Brad Cole, as he left the services hand-in-hand with his 8-year-old daughter.
Security was heightened at many synagogues. Monday night services at B'nai Jeshurun started 30 minutes late to give guards time to search every bag.
Yet few saw any imminent threat and attendance was higher than usual in many places.
``I don't spend a lot of time in a synagogue, but this is a good time to be here,'' said Janet Kean, at Temple B'Nai Israel in Toledo, Ohio, where uniformed police officers guarded the standing-room-only crowd.
Stephen Finkelman, president of Beth David Reform Congregation in Gladwyne, Pa., said he saw more people at two early services Tuesday than he had on previous holidays.
``The one that just ended filled the place up,'' he said.
Some could not put aside their anger over the slaughter of thousands, even as rabbis led quiet meditation on the holiday and its meaning.
``I pray for them to stop the murderers,'' said David Foster, 68, outside the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles.
Noah Goldstein, a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Calif., said it was easy to pray for a good year, despite the grief of last week.
``The one thing we need is hope,'' he said.