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Jewish New Year a Time for Family, Reflection

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Eli Russ and Seth Rothman approach Rosh Hashanah from opposite ends of the spectrum, but both will wish for a sweet new year in the same way: with family, friends and honey-covered apples.

"It symbolizes a sweet new year," said Russ, who will observe the tradition of dipping apples in honey.

The Larchmont resident's family usually visits relatives, but will act as host this year for the two-day holiday, which begins at sundown Wednesday with service at a synagogue, followed by a big dinner with family and friends. Russ, who plans to move to Israel after college , uses the time spent at service and with family to reflect on his life, and relationship with God.

"You do this through introspection and repenting to God, and asking that He'll give you a good and successful and healthy new year," said Russ, a junior at Mamaroneck High School who observes at the Westchester Jewish Center.

Rothman's family, former Mamaroneck residents, also attended the Westchester Jewish Center. For the past four years, the Port Chester resident has gathered with family to observe the holiday with his aunt's synagogue in mid-town Manhattan.

"It's more of a family gathering than it is a religious gathering for me," said Rothman, community sports producer at LMC-TV. "It's important to see family, to be with family."

Rothman, a graduate of Mamaroneck High School, has spent both days with family in the past, but was only able to take one day off from work this year.

According to Jewish tradition, the 10-day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is when God chooses who will be inscribed in the Book of Life and the Book of Death.

"For the observant, it begins 10 days of reflection before Yom Kippur, when you're supposed to atone your sins," Rothman said.

Families will spend most of Friday in prayer, including Barry Horowitz. "We reflect upon the past year and look forward to the coming year – and we eat," he said.

Wednesday, Horowitz will join family members – some coming from as far as the Midwest – at his parents’ home in Long Island, where he grew up.

"In an ideal world, introspection and reflection should be happening all the time, and correction of your actions, but people become busy, and sometimes we lose sight of what we have to do," Russ said.

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