The Tri-Valley's Jewish community ushered in the Jewish New Year with special observances starting last Sunday night at Congregation Beth Emek and at the Chabad of the Tri Valley, both in Pleasanton.
Rosh Hashanah, which began at 7:30 p.m. Sunday with the start of year 5777 on the Jewish calendar, ends tonight.
Customs associated with the holiday included sounding the shofar, eating a round challah and tasting apples and honey to represent a sweet New Year.
Beth Emek, located at 3400 Nevada Court next to the Bernal Avenue bridge, started the year with a new way of thinking about synagogue membership.
"This is the time of year when many Jews think about joining a synagogue," Beth Emek's Rabbi Laurence Elis Milder said. "We wanted to get away from the language of dues and make our congregation more accessible, regardless of financial means."
Chabad's High Holiday services also are open to all regardless of background or affiliation, the Chabad's Rabbi Resnick said. Membership or tickets are not required to join. Services are being held at the Masonic Lodge at 3370 Hopyard Road, which the Chabad of the Tri Valley is buying.
"According to tradition, at the New Year the doors of heaven are open. God accepts all prayers, from anyone," Resnick said. "The least we can do is open our doors as well, to the entire community."
"With the opening of the new Chabad Center for Jewish Life just a few weeks away, this New Year brings added excitement for the entire community," Resnick added. "We're looking forward to a year of joy, peace, and prosperity for the entire community.".
Congregation Beth Emek, one of a small, but growing, number of synagogues in the country that have left behind the conventional model of synagogue membership based on dues, is now inviting people to contribute what they can afford. It has implemented a "Gifts of the Heart" program, encouraging members to contribute from their own hearts.
"God told Moses to accept gifts from everyone whose heart moved them," Rabbi Milder said. "We expect to see many people at this year's High Holy Days who have worshiped with us for several years and we invite them to consider membership."
"The Jewish New Year is a time when we examine what is important in life, make new commitments and renew the bonds that unite us," he added. "We hope that our new view of synagogue commitment brings more people to Beth Emek and strengthens the bonds in our community."
"The sound of the shofar touches our hearts and souls, calling upon us to become kinder and holier individuals", explained Rabbi Resnick. "While 'New Years' is usually associated with partying and celebration, the Jewish New Year is observed with reverence; a time for reflection and resolution."
For more information on the Chabad, sign on to its website at www.JewishTriValley.com/
For information about Congregation Beth Emek, contact the synagogue at (925) 931-1055, or at